The General Medical Council (GMC) has sent a clear message that sexual harassment in healthcare must stop as the regulator launches the first major update to its Good medical practice standards in 10 years.
For the first time, the sexual harassment of colleagues is explicitly covered with doctors instructed not to act in a sexual way towards peers with the intent of causing offence, embarrassment, humiliation, or distress.
This encompasses verbal and written comments, the displaying or sharing of images, and physical contact.
After listening to 1000s of patients, doctors & healthcare organisations in our consultation, we’ve published #GoodMedicalPractice2024. Get to know the updated professional standards for UK doctors, before they come into effect on 30 January 2024 https://t.co/gnZeIfpWgQ pic.twitter.com/hm23he1FUP— GMC (@gmcuk) August 22, 2023
The GMC’s chair, Professor Dame Carrie MacEwen, commented: “Sexual harassment, bullying and discrimination are entirely unacceptable. Where workplace cultures of this kind of behaviour go unchecked, they are detrimental to wellbeing, performance and patient safety.”
She continued: “Doctors are increasingly, and bravely, speaking out about it, and as a regulator, it is important we leave no doubt that such behaviour has no place in our health services.”
The issue of bullying and harassment is also clearly tackled for the first time in the guidance. Doctors who witness such behaviour should intervene, whether that be:
- Offering support to the victim, including acknowledging that what they have seen is unacceptable
- Challenging the person responsible at an appropriate time and place
- Reporting the acts in line with workforce policies and ensuring the victim is aware and supports this course of action
Responding to the news, NHS Employers’ chief executive, Danny Mortimer, said: “Sexual misconduct has absolutely no place in any environment, whether that be in the workplace or in wider society, and its incumbent on all to take action to eliminate it, including employers and trade unions.”
He continued: “NHS leaders welcome and support the GMC’s move to clearly define sexual harassment and set out its expectations on how staff should act.”
The new guidance will come into effect from the 30th of January 2024 and will apply to all doctors on the UK medical register.
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