More than 35,000 incidents of sexual misconduct or violence recorded in NHS
More than 35,000 incidents of sexual misconduct or sexual violence were recorded in the NHS in England between 2017 and 2022, research suggests.
The new data, which includes rapes, sexual assaults, being touched without consent, stalking and abuse, was collected under freedom of information laws.
Most of the 35,606 incidents (58%) involved patients abusing staff. At least a fifth were rape, sexual assault or inappropriate physical contact, including unwanted kissing.
The data was collected by the British Medical Journal (BMJ) and The Guardian from 212 NHS trusts and 37 police forces in England.
One in five cases involved patients abusing other patients, although not all trusts gave a detailed breakdown.
Meanwhile, police recorded nearly 12,000 alleged sexual crimes on NHS premises in the same time period – including 180 cases of rape of children under 16, with four children under 16 being gang-raped.
The investigation found that fewer than one in 10 trusts has a dedicated policy to deal with sexual assault and harassment, and the BMJ reported they are no longer obliged to report abuse of staff to a central database.
Latifa Patel, BMA workforce and equalities lead, said she assumed NHS trusts without dedicated sexual safety policies are “sitting on huge numbers of unreported incidents”, which she describes as “a truly disturbing implication”.
The data showed that 193 of the 212 trusts reported 10 or fewer staff-on-staff incidents between 2017 and 2022, though the BMJ and The Guardian said medics thought this was implausible.
The data showed that more than 4,000 NHS staff were accused of rape, sexual assault, harassment, stalking, or abusive remarks towards other staff or patients in 2017-22.
Only 576 have faced disciplinary action, the investigation found.
Navina Evans, chief workforce officer at NHS England, said: “The health service must be a safe space for all patients and staff and must not tolerate any sexual misconduct, violence, harassment or abuse.
“NHS England has established a dedicated team to ensure people who experience violence and abuse are supported in the workplace, and there is greater provision of support for all victims and survivors.
“All NHS trusts and organisations have measures in place to ensure immediate action is taken in any cases reported to them and I strongly encourage anyone who has experienced any misconduct to come forward, report it and seek support.”
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