Bullying and harassment cost NHS over £2bn a year, – It’s got that bad, and that expensive!

NHSreality has covered bullying, harassment and whistleblowing many times. We are of the opinion that only a form of “zero” management, by which I mean removing all performance targets, and allowing management to do its own thing as it wishes for a few years, will work. Once morale has improved and a new culture of trust has been established, mutually agreed performance indicators can be addressed again. It’s got that bad, and that expensive!

Ingrid Torjesen in the BMJ reports; Bullying and harassment cost NHS over £2bn a year, study suggests  BMJ 2018; 363 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.k4463 (Published 24 October 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;363:k4463

The consequences of bullying and harassment in the NHS cost the service in England at least £2.28bn (€2.58bn; $2.96bn) a year, an analysis suggests.1

Researchers used data from NHS Digital to gauge the impact of bullying and harassment on sickness absence, employee turnover, productivity, sickness presenteeism, and employment relations. The authors described the final £2.28bn figure as an “extremely cautious” estimate, as several costs lack reliable evidence.

The analysis, published in the journal Public Money and Management,1 estimated that the cost to the NHS from sickness absence due to bullying is £483.6m a year. This assumes that the 24% of NHS staff who are bullied will “conservatively” have 71% more time off (seven extra days a year) on top of the average 9.36 sickness days. The average daily pay rate of the 1.046 million NHS staff is £140.12.

Staff absences are estimated to cost the employer an additional 62.5% on top of the salary costs of absent staff members, equal to an extra £302.2m. This cost largely reflects the agency staff and overtime required to cover for absent staff.

The cost of “presenteeism”—the productivity lost when staff continue to come to work while being bullied and are more prone to making mistakes—was estimated at £604.4m, twice as high as the costs of absenteeism due to bullying harassment.

Of the 24% of NHS staff who reported being bullied, an estimated 15% (3.6% of staff overall) consequently left their employment. The cost of replacing each of these 42 681 staff is £5614.00—a total of £231.9m. The reduced productivity of the new staff replacing them is estimated to cost £13 489 each while new employees get up to speed, equal to £575.7m overall.

Annual industrial relations, compensation, and litigation costs from bullying and harassment are estimated at £83.5m. This is based on a predicted 8.5 cases of bullying and harassment at each of the 234 NHS organisations a year, each costing an average of £41 963.

The authors suggest improving existing staff surveys to better capture the types of behaviours attributable to bullying and to understand how staff feel about current procedures to tackle workplace bullying. With a better idea of the effectiveness of current strategies, improved methods could be developed, they say.

Duncan Lewis, professor of management at Plymouth University and one of the authors, said, “Research has increasingly demonstrated the risks to patient care and safety but not addressed the cost to the organisational effectiveness of the NHS. We hope this study kickstarts serious attention to the substantial diversion of funding away from patient care that current levels of bullying cause.”

Image result for work bully cartoon

BMJ Leader: End the culture of fear in healthcare

This entry was posted in A Personal View, Stories in the Media on by .

About Roger Burns - retired GP

I am a retired GP and medical educator. I have supported patient participation throughout my career, and my practice, St Thomas; Surgery, has had a longstanding and active Patient Participation Group (PPG). I support the idea of Community Health Councils, although I feel they should be funded at arms length from government. I have taught GP trainees for 30 years, and been a Programme Director for GP training in Pembrokeshire 20 years. I served on the Pembrokeshire LHG and LHB for a total of 10 years. I completed an MBA in 1996, and I along with most others, never had an exit interview from any job in the NHS! I completed an MBA in 1996, and was a runner up for the Adam Smith prize for economy and efficiency in government in that year. This was owing to a suggestion (St Thomas' Mutual) that practices had incentives for saving by being allowed to buy rationed out services in the following year.

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