Between 2017 and 2022, over 35,000 incidents of sexual misconduct or sexual violence were documented on NHS premises in England. These incidents ranged from derogatory remarks to allegations of rape, sexual assault, and non-consensual touching.
The data, obtained through Freedom of Information requests from 212 NHS trusts and 37 police forces in England, was collected by the British Medical Journal (BMJ) and the Guardian and shared with BBC File on 4.
According to the BBC
According to the findings, at least 20% of the reported incidents involved rape, sexual assault, or inappropriate physical contact, including kissing. Other cases included sexual harassment, stalking, and the use of abusive or degrading language. It should be noted that not all trusts provided a detailed breakdown, but it was observed that one in five cases involved patients abusing other patients.
During the same period, the police recorded nearly 12,000 alleged sexual crimes on NHS premises. This included 180 cases of rape involving children under the age of 16, with four instances of gang rape.
The report highlighted a personal account from a former patient who experienced sexual assault while showering in a hospital. Referred to as Mary (pseudonym), she described an incident where a male patient entered the shower area uninvited, causing her to scream in distress. The man approached her and exclaimed, “I’ll have some of that.” Mary managed to defend herself by elbowing him and pushing him away. She expressed her vulnerability, stating that she tried to run and cover herself while being conscious of the onlookers.
These distressing accounts shed light on the pervasive issue of sexual misconduct within NHS premises, emphasizing the urgent need for measures to address and prevent such incidents in healthcare settings.
Mary, now in her early 80s, revealed that she had been admitted to the hospital in 2020 following a heart attack. Her attacker had been present in a chair outside the shower room when the assault occurred. Disturbingly, despite reporting the incident to the police, the law enforcement agency involved determined that there was insufficient evidence to pursue a prosecution.
An NHS spokesperson has told the BBC
The investigation conducted by the BMJ and the Guardian has highlighted significant gaps in the policies and actions taken by NHS organizations to address sexual assault and harassment cases. Shockingly, the findings indicate that fewer than 10% of NHS trusts have a dedicated policy in place to handle such incidents. Moreover, managers are no longer obligated to report instances of staff abuse to a central database.
Consultant Philippa Jackson shared her experience of being sexually assaulted by a senior colleague while working as a junior doctor. Despite reporting the incident, no action was taken against the perpetrator. Jackson was informed that since the incident had not been witnessed and could not be proven, there was no case to answer.
Daisy Cooper MP, the Liberal Democrats’ health spokeswoman, has called for the implementation of a new sexual complaints system to protect patients, visitors, and staff. Cooper emphasizes that Mary’s story exemplifies the alarming number of sexual attacks occurring in NHS hospitals throughout the UK, which she deems absolutely unacceptable. She highlights the need for a straightforward and well-defined process for individuals to file sexual complaints, ensuring that such complaints are treated with respect and efficiency.
The investigation also revealed that during the same period, over 4,000 NHS staff members were accused of rape, sexual assault, harassment, stalking, or making abusive remarks towards other staff or patients. However, only 576 individuals faced disciplinary action.
In response, the Department of Health and Social Care issued a statement acknowledging the urgency of addressing these issues. They mentioned that the health and social care secretary is actively working with the NHS and has recently convened a meeting with NHS leaders to address and eradicate such abhorrent behavior, aiming to ensure the safety of both staff and patients within healthcare services.