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The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh (RCSEd) has launched a powerful UK-wide campaign to raise awareness and encourage zero tolerance of sexual misconduct in healthcare.
The ‘Let’s Remove It’ (#LetsRemoveIt) campaign has been activated in response to the alarming findings uncovered by the Working Party on Sexual Misconduct in Surgery (WPSMS) and the Surviving in Scrubs group, which highlighted the harassment and sexual abuse faced by many in surgery.
The campaign will be driven by a newly formed action committee within RCSEd, The Hunter Doig Group, named after two pioneering women in surgery and consisting of 30 female representatives dedicated to wiping out sexual misconduct and serving as mentors, advocates, and guardians of a new era of respect within the medical profession.
It comes as a report by the WPSMS highlighted how a staggering 89% women and 81% men have witnessed sexual misconduct in the surgical profession in the last five years.
The ‘Let’s Remove It’ campaign will include:
Clare McNaught, Vice President of RCSEd, who is leading the campaign, said: “This behaviour simply must not happen and the culture that has allowed it to happen must be wiped out.
“Our campaign says ‘Let’s Remove It’ - we are all in this together and can unite to eliminate sexual misconduct in surgery.
“Sexual misconduct in any form is an assault on dignity and encompasses a range of unwanted actions that create an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment for survivors.
“This can include sexual comments or jokes, displaying sexualised pictures, inappropriate emails, texts or WhatsApp messages, unwelcome physical contact, enhanced career opportunities offered for sex, sexual assault, and rape.
“It’s also important to understand that although sexual misconduct is predominantly experienced by female staff, it can affect any healthcare worker.”
RCSEd President, Professor Rowan Parks, said: “We're acutely aware of our role as a College in supporting cultural change to ensure a safer, more inclusive workforce where respect is non-negotiable.
“By launching our ‘Let’s Remove It’ campaign, we say 'No more’. No more turning a blind eye. No more accepting the unacceptable. This must be a watershed moment for our profession.”
NHS England Education and Training and NHS Education for Scotland (NES) are backing the campaign’s roll-out.
Sheona MacLeod, Director of Education and Training in NHS England, said: “We are working hard to improve the learning and working environment in the NHS and are very supportive of this campaign that aims to remove sexual misconduct from surgical teams. The NHS needs to welcome surgeons from all backgrounds and genders and harmful cultures must change.”
Professor Emma Watson, Executive Medical Director at NES, said: “We are very supportive of this important campaign that aims to remove sexual misconduct from surgery in Scotland. Education and training in our NHS are about more than technical skills – respectful, safe, inclusive conduct is just as crucial and a culture that does not support this must be wiped out.”
The campaign focusing on sexual misconduct builds on RCSEd’s ongoing work to eradicate bullying and undermining in surgery and highlight the destructive impact such unacceptable behaviours have on clinicians and patient care.