According to research undertaken by the Salisbury Foundation Trust bullying doesn’t bother most staff. A survey of 300 nursing staff to identify the work issues that most concern them put excessive workloads and abusive patients at the top of the list, leading to an eyebrow-raising headline on HSJ.co.uk that questioned whether bullying bothers staff.
In the same issue there was reference to another report highlighting the continued high levels of absenteeism in the NHS.
I am sure I am not the only one to recognise the link between absenteeism, heavy workloads, management bullying and abusive patients.
A previous survey commissioned by the Royal College of Nursing reported exhausted nurses being pressurised by managers to work overtime and do extra shifts to cover for absent colleagues and vacant posts. Staffing shortages obviously have an impact on patient care. If staff are rushing round trying to do two people’s jobs then some patients will have to wait longer than they think they should to get the attention they need. Some, inevitably, will respond by being abusive.
Staff should not have to put up with abusive patients, management bullying or excessive workloads. But they do and it has an impact on their wellbeing and their attendance.
Asking staff what bothers them most and them listing their concerns in the order they cause most distress fails to recognise the vicious circle. A circle that senior managers need to break. And I don’t mean sacking staff who are off sick. I mean establishing adequate staffing levels, ensuring vacancies are filled quickly, supporting staff who are subject of abuse and refusing to view it as just “part of the job”, and employing managers who can see beyond the immediate budget issue and short term performance targets.