Dealing with undermining
Undermining and bullying behaviour has long been recognised as a problem for trainees in obstetrics and gynaecology (O&G), as shown by repeated General Medical Council (GMC) trainee surveys. O&G trainees report more undermining behaviour than any other medical specialty, which is a matter of concern.
A recent RCOG survey also identified undermining and bullying experienced by consultants, with 14% of the UK O&G consultant workforce saying they had been persistently bullied or undermined. The RCOG is committed to improving the workplace for the benefit of both staff and patients, and we want our doctors to feel valued and respected in their workplace.
The RCOG’s annual Workforce report further outlines the challenges facing the O&G profession and the commitments the College is making to address them. If you would like more information you can read the report here.
Bullying and undermining can lead to a ‘blame and shame’ culture, defensive practise, high stress, burn-out and sickness which can subsequently result in rota gaps and high rates of attrition from specialty training. Therefore a key aim of the College’s Supporting our Doctors Task Group is to create a culture where doctors feel actively supported to prevent, minimise and manage workplace stress, collaboratively and openly, for the benefit of their own and their patients’ wellbeing.
In conjunction with the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), we have developed a freely accessible undermining toolkit (aimed at all career stages and roles) to improve workplace behaviours. The toolkit includes online resources and tutorials, guidance for managers and organisations and good practice case studies of interventions that have reduced the incidence of bullying and undermining behaviours in O&G workplaces at various levels:
- Strategic interventions that over-arching institutions such as the NHS, GMC and medical royal colleges can take
- Unit, trust and local education provider interventions
- Departmental and team interventions
- Individual interventions, for both perpetrators and victims of undermining
Approaches to complaint handling
The RCOG’s Supporting our Doctors Task Group is advocating for a more consistent, open and progressive approach to complaints handling; a principles-based approach that governs behaviour and interactions with others, emphasising honesty, fairness and integrity. The group has identified 5 core principles it believes should underpin a good complaint handling process:
||Exclusion should be a last resort having demonstrated that no other realistic and acceptable work can be offered, e.g. limiting an area of practice or teaching
||Doctors should be encouraged to support and speak to colleagues experiencing difficulties
||Complaint handling and investigations must be completed in a timely manner
||Training for everyone handling and investigating complaints
||A nationally recognised and applied framework for complaint handling, to ensure parity and consistency across the profession
To support the ‘Competency’ principle the task group are aiming to run an event in 2019 on how best to handle complaints and resolve disputes locally. The event will be aimed at managers and anyone who could potentially be involved in complaints handling processes.
Other useful resources