This site is intended for health professionals only

Work pressures main cause of bullying in NHS services, study reveals

Work pressures main cause of bullying in NHS services, study reveals
By Léa Legraien Reporter
1 November 2018

Work pressures in the NHS are the main reason for bullying, a new study has revealed.

A two-year study published today by the BMA showed that most UK doctors (65% of 7,887 respondents) consider that work pressures within the health service are the main driver for bullying, undermining and harassment.

This comes after a study estimated last week that the impact of bullying and harassment in the NHS costs the health sector £2.3bn a year.

The key findings from the BMA study are the following:

  • 65% said that work pressures are the main cause for bullying, undermining and harassment in the NHS.
  • 58% believe behavior that drives bullying and harassment ‘comes from the top’ and is difficult to change.
  • 48% who are bullied, undermined or harassed at work are too scared to speak up.
  • 46% who witness colleagues become victims of bullying, undermining and harassment do not report what they see.

Reflects pressures within the system

BMA representative body chair Dr Anthea Mowat said bullying ‘reflects pressures in the system, poor working environments, top-down command and control leadership’.

She added: ‘People who have been bullied have described how it has destroyed their confidence and affected them personally. In some instances, it has caused serious and lasting harm to people’s lives and careers.

‘Even those who simply witness such behaviour say they are more likely to take time off sick or want to change jobs.

‘The consequences for patient care and safety are serious. In workplaces where bullying is common, communication and teamwork suffer, and staff are afraid to raise legitimate concerns about patient care or safety.’


Commenting on the BMA report, NHS Employers director of employment relations and reward Paul Wallace said: ‘It’s disheartening to see that so many UK doctors suffer from bullying, undermining and harassment.

‘Our hardworking colleagues do great work under extreme pressure, and it is understandable that it may affect their mood, but it is not fair that this pressure should be compounded by bad behaviour.’

According to the most recent NHS staff survey results published in March, nearly a quarter of all NHS staff (24%) reported that they had been harassed, bullied or abused by other members of staff in the previous 12 months. This compares to 18% in 2012.

Want news like this straight to your inbox?

Related articles