Over the course of five years, the N.H.S. in England recorded more than 35,000 incidents of sexual misconduct or sexual violence, encompassing a range of offenses from derogatory remarks to rape.
According to Freedom of Information requests received from 212 NHS trusts and 37 police forces in England, approximately one in five cases involved rape, sexual assault, or non-consensual touching. Among these incidents, the majority—58%—involved patients abusing healthcare staff.
The data further revealed instances of sexual harassment, stalking, and degrading remarks. However, not all trusts provided a detailed breakdown, and one in five cases involved patients abusing fellow patients.
In the same period, police documented nearly 12,000 alleged sexual crimes on N.H.S. premises, including 180 cases of child rape and instances of gang rape involving children under 16.
A survivor of sexual assault recounted her experience, describing how she was attacked by a male patient while showering in a hospital. Despite reporting the incident to the police, no prosecution took place due to insufficient evidence.
While an NHS spokesperson emphasized the need for robust measures and immediate action in responding to sexual cases, an investigation by the BMJ and The Guardian found that less than one in ten NHS trusts had dedicated policies to address sexual assault and harassment. Furthermore, managers are no longer obligated to report incidents of staff abuse to a central database.
Calls for a new sexual complaints system to safeguard patients, visitors, and staff have been made by Daisy Cooper MP, the Liberal Democrats’ health spokeswoman, who highlighted the alarming frequency of sexual attacks in N.H.S. hospitals across the U.K.
The investigation also revealed that out of more than 4,000 NHS staff accused of sexual offenses towards colleagues or patients, only 576 faced disciplinary action.
In response, the Department of Health and Social Care stated that the Health and social care secretary is working closely with the NHS to combat such behavior and ensure the ongoing safety of staff and patients.