RCPsych signs up to the NHS sexual safety in healthcare charter

NHS England recently launched a new charter to address sexual violence in the workplace encouraging all organisations to take a zero-tolerance approach to unwanted, inappropriate and/or harmful sexual behaviours towards our workforce.

The RCPsych has signed up, alongside over 60 other organisations including most of the Medical Royal Colleges, NHS Employers, NHS Trusts, ambulance services and other providers and organisations across the UK.

The charter was launched the week before the Working Party on Sexual Misconduct in Surgery (WPSMS) report was published, highlighting the sheer scale of the issues of sexual violence experienced by women surgeons.

Dr Philippa Greenfield, Co-Presidential Lead for Women and Mental Health is part of the steering group supporting this work looking at what individual organisations and regulatory bodies can do to support meaningful change.

In a recent article for the BMJ, 'We must confront sexual violence in the NHS to prevent further institutional harm', Dr Greenfield talks about the need for extensive cultural change in the NHS to tackle sexual violence and prevent further institutional harm to patients and staff.

“Survivors of sexual violence in the healthcare workforce have been silenced and neglected, and we have failed to acknowledge the devastating harm caused. Public and professional attention brought to this issue by the “Me Too” investigation and WPSMS report has resulted in a welcome call to action against sexual violence to our health organisations, institutions, and regulating bodies.”

Dr Greenfield is asking all RCPsych members to encourage their organisations to sign up and welcomed other activity recognising this issue. Firstly, the new GMC guidance coming into effect in 2024 with Good Medical Practice finally talking explicitly about sexual harassment.

Also, for the first time this year the NHS staff survey will ask staff directly about their experiences of sexual harassment.

She encouraged anyone affected by this issue or considering any potential impact on patient safety to access national help services or resources in their own trust (e.g. HR and Safeguarding policy and leads, wellbeing services, Freedom to Speak up Guardian).

National resources

  • Rape Crisis England and Wales – get help and support if you have experienced rape, sexual assault, sexual abuse or any form of sexual violence
  • For immediate support after rape or sexual assault find you nearest Sexual Assault Referral Centre. In London contact The Havens.
  • SurvivorsUK – Provide a national online helpline and support for boys (13+), men and non-binary people who have experienced sexual violence.
  • Galop – Free confidential services for LGBT+ victims and survivors of abuse and sexual violence in the UK
  • Police and Victim Support – for reporting non-urgent you can phone 101 to report a crime.

Support for doctors

Our website also contains helpful resources on this topic:

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