Conduct regulations for the United Kingdom In light of concerns that sexual harassment in the workplace is going unchecked, physicians are being instructed to clarify what constitutes sexual harassment in the workplace.
The General Medical Council, which regulates physicians to ensure their safety and fitness to care for patients, has announced that it will implement a zero-tolerance policy.
The new guidance explains that violations are not limited to physical activities. Verbal and written comments, as well as image sharing with a colleague, also qualify.
As with other environments, it is difficult to determine the prevalence of sexual harassment in the NHS and private medical practice because not all incidents are reported.
A recent survey of 2,500 physicians conducted by the British Medical Association (BMA) revealed that one-third of female respondents and one-quarter of male respondents had experienced inappropriate physical conduct at work.
Dr. Amy Attwater, an accident and emergency physician in Warwickshire and the lead for equality, diversity, and inclusivity at the non-profit Doctors Association UK, stated that sexual harassment is always extreme and can have enduring effects on individuals.
Speaking for the first time about her own experience, Dr. Attwater told sources that she has been a doctor for 12 years, and as a medical student and as a doctor, notably earlier in her career, she has unfortunately experienced sexual harassment.
The new guidance specifies the actions that physicians should take if they witness abuse or harassment, includes offering support to the victim, including letting them know the unacceptable behavior is unacceptable.
Also, challenging the behavior by speaking to the perpetrator at the time, if it is safe to do so, or at an appropriate time and place reporting the behavior in accordance with workplace policies, ensuring the person targeted is aware of and supports the intention
In addition, it states that leaders and administrators must ensure that inappropriate conduct is addressed, dealt with expeditiously, and escalated as necessary.
In the aftermath of the Lucy Letby trial, there have been calls to revamp the NHS's whistleblowing system after it was revealed that hospital administrators disregarded senior doctors who voiced concerns about the alleged baby killer.
Existing guidance cautions physicians against acting sexually towards patients or using their professional position to "pursue a sexual or inappropriate emotional relationship."
The new guidelines will not take effect until the end of January, following a five-month period of staff familiarization. According to some, there is still much work to be done.
Dr. Chelcie Jewitt, an emergency-medicine physician who is a member of the Surviving in Scrubs campaign group, which aims to raise awareness of sexism, harassment, and sexual assault in the healthcare personnel, said they have discussed the guidelines with the GMC and agree that they are a step in the correct direction, but there is still a long way to go before the culture of sexual misconduct in healthcare is eradicated.
Dr. Caroline Fryar of the Medical Defence Union, which represents doctors in medical and legal matters, stated, "We are urging employers to ensure that medical professionals are given sufficient time to digest the changes, and the GMC to do everything possible to ensure that physicians can easily comprehend the major modifications."