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Summary of bullying behaviour in the NHS

Bullying behaviour is a choice. It’s intent is to undermine, cause shame, embarrassment, pain, demotivate, dehumanise, abuse power and curb the potential of others. It isn’t the same as incivility that often happens in highly pressurised, resource stretched environments.

In the NHS, incivility and bullying behaviour may sometimes become confused. While incivility is primarily rude behaviour when someone is under pressure, bullying behaviour is more intentional and can, if left unchallenged, become normalised in teams, departments and across organisations. The costs are high. A study published this year estimated that bullying in the NHS costs us £2.3 billion per annum – and that excludes other costs such as stresses on families, community support for those being bullied, calls to national helplines, the exit of qualified people and the need to refill vacancies and, of course, it negatively impacts patient care. People who are subject to bullying behaviour are more liked to be distracted, disengaged, less likely to contribute to improvements in patient care and they are more likely to be in psychological distress.

If you are unable to talk to anyone in your team/department/organisation, then do contact national helplines/unions/your GP. Do not be ashamed or embarrassed to ask for support. People who are subject to bullying behaviour often aren’t even aware of the psychological damage they are subject to – our minds are very good at adapting quickly and making excuses for poor behaviour so that we can survive in our environment. But you need to find support to be able to deal with the psychological fall-out of being a target of bullying behaviour – without this you will be unable to challenge/report the behaviour and you will be unable to rebuild your confidence/self-esteem, and you are more likely to put unnecessary pressure on your family/friends.