Addressing sexual misconduct in healthcare

Published 15/09/2023

The Faculty of Intensive Care Medicine (FICM) welcomes the Breaking the Silence report into sexual misconduct in healthcare. The report presents analysis of an anonymous online survey conducted in part by the Working Party on Sexual Misconduct in Surgery (WPSMS). It reveals the extent of sexual misconduct within the surgical workforce in the last five years.  The widespread nature of sexual misconduct within the surgical team, which includes sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape, is deeply shocking and concerning.  

FICM is a signatory to the NHS England Sexual Safety in Healthcare charter, which outlines ten core principles and actions to help reinforce our commitment to a zero tolerance approach to any unwanted, inappropriate and/or harmful sexual behaviours in the workplace . We have also joined the British Medical Association’s pledge to end sexism in medicine, (our representative is Board member Dr Liz Thomas) committing to working with them and others to address the cultural and structural factors that cause sexism in order to improve working conditions for medical students and doctors. 

Staff working in critical care are expected to behave appropriately and create an environment where all are able to feel they can do their job in a supportive and non threatening environment. Our Women in Intensive Care Medicine and Careers, Recruitment and Workforce committees are actively engaged in improving the experiences of all who work in ICM, irrespective of gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation. NHS hospitals and regulators also have a responsibility to ensure their policies and procedures are fit for purpose so staff are able to call out poor behaviour and report it if necessary - you should be able to expect to do that.  

We are also aware of statements from a retired clinician in the media to the effect that sexually inappropriate comments and actions are part of medical training and should be accepted. This commentary has caused great upset in our clinical community.  

FICM is very clear that such actions are wholly unacceptable, and we have penned a joint letter of response with the Royal College of Anaesthetists and Faculty of Pain Medicine to make this clear. This has been cited by the Times (paywall), BBCEvening Standard and elsewhere.  

Sexual misconduct must not be tolerated in any workplace and people affected deserve compassion, justice, and a commitment to zero tolerance from their employers and colleagues.  The Faculty stands in support of all those affected by these issues. 

We care about our members and their welfare.