Nurses are routinely told by NHS bosses to put up with sex pest patients because they are an ‘occupational hazard’, conference hears
- Nurses are routinely told to tolerate sexual harassment at work by NHS bosses
- They receive rape threats, sexual comments and have been followed in their cars
- Staff spoke out at the Royal College of Nursing Annual congress in Liverpool
Nurses are routinely told by hospital bosses to put up with sexual harassment at work because it is an ‘occupational hazard’, a conference heard.
Staff said the ‘sexy nurse stereotype from Carry On films’ persists and meant patients felt they could get away with inappropriate comments or touching.
Speaking at the Royal College of Nursing annual congress in Liverpool, nurses said they had received rape threats, sexual comments and been followed to their cars – only for NHS managers to laugh it off.
Nurses are routinely told by NHS bosses to put up with sexual harassment – including rape threats, sexual comments and being followed in their cars – the Royal College of Nursing annual congress in Liverpool heard. (Stock photo)
Nikki Williams, from north-west London, said she was threatened with rape by a patient who warned her he would be waiting outside when she finished work.
She said: ‘I called the police. Nothing happened. I can’t remember exactly what [my] department said when I called them but it was implied that I should expect that type of comment from people, working in the area that I do.’
While most NHS trusts have policies on dealing with sexual harassment allegations between staff members, many have no policy covering patients or their families.
Zeba Arif proposed yesterday that the nursing union should lobby NHS trusts to recognise the problem of sexual harassment by patients.
The London-based nurse said: ‘All too often harassment by patients is brushed aside as a misunderstanding. A lot of nurses are too embarrassed to even speak up about this.
Nikki Williams, a nurse from north-west London, said a patient threatened to rape her and said he would wait outside for her. She claimed that when she called her department it was implied that she should expect that type of behaviour
‘They are scared to say anything in case the employer says, “Oh, but you led him on” or “He fancies you”.’
She revealed how a former colleague at a mental health trust was told by bosses to ‘grow up’ when she raised concerns about a patient’s sexualised comments.
The patient later followed her to her car and pinned her against the bonnet. She broke free but found the trust had no policy on how to deal with the scenario. ‘In fact, the response was to almost blame the victim and deny her experience,’ she added.
‘She was prevented from going to the police because she was told it would bring the trust into disrepute.’
Although statistics for assaults on staff are recorded by the NHS, none are kept for incidents of sexual harassment by patients.
A Royal College of Nursing spokesman said: ‘Sometimes people feel ashamed or think their career will be affected if they tell someone, but that isn’t the case.
‘The RCN will challenge discrimination, harassment and bullying behaviour whether in the workplace or elsewhere. [It] doesn’t tolerate sexual harassment or intimidation.’