Developing a bullying and harassment service


09 / 11 / 2010

The organisation

University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust (UHL) includes the Glenfield Hospital, Leicester General Hospital and Leicester Royal Infirmary. It is one of the largest and busiest acute teaching trusts in England employing just over 12,000 staff and providing services for people across Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland.

What we did and why

In April 2009, UHL introduced a comprehensive bullying and harassment service to try and tackle the high levels of reported bullying and harassment from patients, service users, their relatives and colleagues or managers. The key driver behind the development of the bullying and harassment service was the 2006 NHS Staff Survey in which:
• 26 per cent of respondents stated that they had experienced harassment, bullying or abuse from patients, services users or their relatives.  This score was below average for acute trusts across England.
• 19 per cent of respondents stated that they had experienced harassment and bullying or abuse from colleagues or managers.  This score was above the average of acute trusts across England and was a statistically significant increase from the 13 per cent in the 2005 survey.

Data from other NHS organisations also showed that providing a confidential service to support staff experiencing harassment and bulling would support the Trust’s wider Dignity at Work Policy, which currently includes AMICA, a confidential staff counselling service.

How we did it

The project was piloted in two directorates, anaesthetics and cardio respiratory services and was led by a project team which included:

  • members of the service equality team
  • a workforce equality and diversity HR representative
  • a staff side representative
  • a representative from AMICA

The project team developed an adviser role description, handbook and service outline and initiated a poster campaign to recruit bullying and harassment advisors (BHAs). People who volunteered to be BHAs were not formally interviewed, but had an informal discussion with the project lead.

It was agreed that BHAs would have four hours per month to fulfil the role and they had to have the support of their line managers. The candidates attended a training day which was developed and facilitated by the equality manager, the pacesetters project officer and the human resources equality lead.

Each week, on a rota basis, a BHA is designated as the main contact person for referrals and the pacesetters project officer will pass these on. After four months, calls were received from staff in other directorates, so a decision was taken to extend the service to all areas within the trust.

Alongside the service, an anonymous bullying and harassment monitoring form was advertised on the trust’s intranet. The purpose of the form was to gauge the number and type of incidents of bullying and harassment. To date, one hundred forms have been received and these will be analysed to identify any themes or trends as part of the year end review.

To maintain interest and awareness around bullying and harassment a week long campaign took place in August 2009 across all three UHL trust canteens. A further campaign ran again in conjunction with stress awareness day in November 2009.

The results and next steps

The trust successfully recruitment and trained seven bullying and harassment advisors, and six currently work on the rota.

An evaluation away day was held in November 2009, attended by staff side, members of the project team and AMICA. At the time the following statistical data was available:

  • 41 clients accessed the service for support; 6 calls were from the two original pilot directorates, the remainder were from other parts of the trust
  • The service was the fifth highest source of referrals for AMICA
  • The trust saw the pilot as a success and has decided that it should continue.
  • The majority of calls resulted in the client needing more formal support via human resources.
  • A few calls from individuals were resolved straight away following contact with the service.
  • The trust also receives telephone calls about bullying and harassment issues from other local trusts, which have been redirected.

Statistical information from the Staff Survey 2009 showed the following results:

  • Nineteen per cent of staff said that they had experienced harassment, bullying or abuse from patients, service users or their relatives in the previous twelve months.
  • The trust's score of 19 per cent was in the lowest (best) 20 per cent  when compared with trusts of a similar type.
  • It has not changed significantly since the 2008 survey when the trust scored 21 per cent although it does indicate a slight reduction. 
  • The reported figure in 2006 was 26 per cent.

In terms of bullying or abuse from colleagues or managers:

  • Twenty per cent of staff said that they had experienced harassment, bullying or abuse from colleagues or managers in the previous twelve months.
  • The trust's score of 20 per cent was above average when compared with trusts of a similar type.
  • It shows an increase of three per cent since the 2008 survey when the trust scored 17 per cent, this could be as a result of increased awareness and staff feeling more confident to come forward.

UHL now offers and promotes the bullying and harassment service across the trust and is working on an e-learning bullying and harassment training package to be launched in December 2010. 

Further information and contact details

For more information, please contact Paulette Cornelius, HR Business Partner, on 0116 258 5368 or email

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