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RCOG makes eLearning resource freely available to help reduce undermining and bullying behaviour across the health service

News 2 November 2015

An eLearning resource designed to help doctors tackle undermining and bullying behaviour in obstetrics and gynaecology units has now been made freely available to all health professionals across the NHS.

The practical and interactive eTutorial on Improving Workplace Behaviour was developed by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (RCOG) earlier this year. The video-based resource includes six interactive case studies based on real-life scenarios and aims to help improve how healthcare staff deal with colleagues, provide feedback, and respect cultural differences.

This month the RCOG also updated its 2013 joint statement with the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), reinforcing both Colleges’ commitment to reducing undermining and bullying behaviour in the workplace.

Undermining and bullying behaviour has long been recognised as a problem for obstetrics and gynaecology (O&G) trainee doctors, as evidenced by repeated national General Medical Council trainee surveys. Across the NHS, between 15-24% of staff report experiencing bullying from other staff members.

Dr David Richmond, President of the RCOG, said: “Undermining and bullying behaviour is unacceptable in any workplace, but in our profession it can have devastating effects on patient outcomes, as well for the individuals concerned. Together with the Royal College of Midwives, we have committed to tackling undermining and bullying behaviour. We started this work in 2008 and are encouraged by the results from more recent surveys, which suggest that when action has been taken to tackle poor behaviour in units with supportive management, positive change has been achieved.

“We strongly encourage everyone from across our workforce – from trainee doctors to consultants – to use these resources. We hope the eLearning tutorial will also help other healthcare professionals understand the issues surrounding undermining and bullying in the workplace and how they can be tackled more effectively. Every one of us in the healthcare profession has a role to play in creating a positive working environment which will lead to better patient care and safety.”

Feedback on the eLearning resource and a web-based toolkit, which was developed jointly with the RCM in 2014, suggests these resources are relevant and of high quality and impact, with 100% of users of the eLearning package saying they would recommend the resource to colleagues. The toolkit provides practical advice and examples of the action doctors and midwives should take when they encounter unacceptable behaviour in the workplace.  

Dr Jo Mountfield, a consultant obstetrician and RCOG Workplace Behaviours Advisor, said: “Although we still come across colleagues facing the consequences of bullying or undermining behaviour, we are beginning to see some improvements. For example units that previously were outliers in the GMC survey for bullying and undermining are making significant changes which have resulted in improved behaviour and a much more positive working environment.

“Key to this is leadership, improvements in the working arrangements - such as addressing the rota gaps - and opening channels of communication between trainees, consultants and managers so issues could be addressed.

“I would strongly recommend the resource to other health professionals. Our specialty specific GMC data also tells us that although undermining and bullying remains an issue, where poor behaviour is occurring, it is reported and dealt with, which is good progress. We also have examples of effective interventions which have supported our trainees helping them resolve issues and move on.”

Cathy Warwick, Chief Executive of the Royal College of Midwives, said: "Respect, communication and co-operation between maternity staff delivers better care for women, babies and their families. That is why it is so important that we do all we can to reduce, and ideally, eradicate bullying and harassment.

"Sadly we know that bullying and harassment among staff does occur, as our recent survey of Heads of Midwifery showed. However, they report levels have fallen in the past year so that is cause for optimism, and should spur us all to work event harder to stop it happening.

“The RCM is delighted to continue working with the RCOG to stop inappropriate behaviours and to support midwives and doctors in developing positive and productive working relationships to improve services for mothers and babies.”

Ends

For media enquiries, please contact the RCOG Media and PR team on 020 7772 6300 or

Notes

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists is a medical charity that champions the provision of high quality women’s healthcare in the UK and beyond. It is dedicated to encouraging the study and advancing the science and practice of obstetrics and gynaecology. It does this through postgraduate medical education and training and the publication of clinical guidelines and reports on aspects of the specialty and service provision.