Female NHS surgeon shares harrowing moment she was sexually assaulted in surgery – as 1 in 3 attacked

ALMOST one in three NHS surgeons have been sexually abused, a “deeply shocking” new study has found.

Eleven cases of rape were reported by participants in the study – the largest case of its kind ever.

A study has found that almost a third of NHS female surgeons have been sexually abused


A study has found that almost a third of NHS female surgeons have been sexually abusedPhoto credit: Getty

The survey, published in the British Journal of Surgery, found that 29 percent of women had made unwanted physical progress while at work in the past five years.

More than 40 percent had also received unsolicited comments about their bodies, while 38 percent had suffered sexual teasing.

And nearly nine in 10 female respondents said they had witnessed sexual misconduct.

For men the proportion was 81 percent.

The report, prepared by the University of Exeter on behalf of the Working Party on Sexual Misconduct in Surgery, analyzed 1,434 responses to an anonymous online survey.

The authors concluded: “Sexual misconduct is common and appears to remain uncontrolled in the surgical environment due to a combination of a highly hierarchical structure and an imbalance between gender and power.”

“The result is an unsafe work environment and an unsafe space for patients.”

A surgeon who was sexually abused early in her career said a senior surgeon pressed his face into her breasts during a procedure while pretending to wipe sweat from his forehead.

Then he did it a second time and the woman offered to get him a towel, but he replied with a grin, “No, that’s a lot of fun.”

She told the BBC: “I felt dirty, I felt humiliated.”

“He wasn’t even the most senior person in the operating room, but he knew what he was doing was OK and that it was just bad.”

Another woman said she had non-consensual sex with a consultant she “trusted” and “looked up to” after a social event related to a medical conference.

The then-intern described how her “body froze” and she “couldn’t stop him”, adding: “It’s not what I wanted, it was never what I wanted, it was completely unexpected.”

But she didn’t feel able to tell anyone because “there was a very strong culture of just putting up with whatever was done to you.”

Tim Mitchell, president of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, described the results as “deeply shocking”.

Consultant surgeon Tamzin Cuming, chair of the Women in Surgery forum at RCS England, said the report presented “some of the most shocking facts ever to come to light” about the specialty and “represents a MeToo moment for surgery.” .

“Deeply shocking”

Writing in the Times, she added: “Our research highlights an environment in which sexual assault, harassment and rape can occur among surgical staff, but it is possible to ignore it because the system protects those those who carry them out, and not those affected.”

“We urgently need a change in oversight of how health care examines itself.”

She called for the establishment of a national implementation body to monitor implementation of the report’s recommendations and independently investigate incidents of sexual misconduct.

“No one should have to demand a code of conduct that essentially says, ‘Please don’t harass your work colleagues or students’, and yet this is one of the measures our report recommends,” Ms Cuming said.

“The report is measured and its recommendations actionable, but that should not obscure the anger and frustration felt by many in our profession.”

Liberal Democrat health and social care spokeswoman Daisy Cooper MP backed the calls, adding: “It is a national scandal that NHS staff are not only being victims of sexual misconduct in the workplace, but are then being left to suffer in silence.”

“The Government must stop hesitating and ensure there is tailored support for anyone reporting incidents of this nature, and finally commit to clear and systematic collection of data on reports of sexual misconduct in the health service for public and parliamentary scrutiny to accomplish.” .

“Culture change is also needed within the NHS and the government must find the resources to deliver it.”

It is truly shocking to continue to hear about these women’s experiences.

Dr. Latifa PatelBritish Medical Association

The results were presented to NHS England, the General Medical Council and the British Medical Association.

Dr. Latifa Patel, BMA equalities officer, said: “The scale and severity of sexual assault against female surgeons over the last five years that this survey has revealed is abhorrent.”

“It is appalling that women in surgery are subjected to sexual assault and sexual misconduct by their colleagues, in the workplace and often while trying to care for patients.”

“The impact this will have on their wellbeing in the years ahead and on their careers is profound.”

“Sexual assault and sexual misconduct not only have a profound impact on victims and witnesses, but understandably can also impact the quality of care and the way in which they care for patients. That has to stop.”

She highlighted that the BMA has long called for more to be done to eliminate all forms of sexual harassment in the workplace, adding: “This survey shows more than ever that urgent action needs to be taken.”

“Doctors who abuse their position to commit sexual assault have no place in the medical profession.

“It is truly shocking to continue to hear about these women’s experiences. We encourage you and your colleagues who experience sexual harassment and sexism of any kind to seek support from the BMA.”

“These terrible acts must be challenged and no longer tolerated.”

Separate research shows that more than a third of newly qualified doctors leave British medical schools without being informed about sexual misconduct on the job.

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The report, prepared by the University of Cambridge and published by JRSM Open, highlighted the fact that there is no standardized training in universities.

The lead researcher Dr. Sarah Steele said: “Universities and professional bodies should urgently address this issue.”

Aila Slisco

Aila Slisco is a Dailynationtoday U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Aila Slisco joined Dailynationtoday in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing: ailaslisco@dailynationtoday.com.

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