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One-third of UK female surgeons experience sexual assault

By Sydney Martin

A study conducted by the University of Glasgow found that nearly one-third of female surgeons experienced sexual assault from a colleague.

A new study by the University of Glasgow found that nearly one-third of female surgeons have experienced sexual assault by a colleague. 

The study, which was conducted in cooperation with several universities and the Working Party on Sexual Misconduct in Surgery, surveyed roughly 1,400 people in an anonymous form and found that two-thirds of women and a quarter of men had been the target of sexual misconduct in the workplace. Additionally, it also found that a third of female surgeons had experienced sexual assault – either in the workplace or in a work-related space, such as a conference. 

Among other data, there was also a wide lack of faith in the ability of organisations such as the NHS to deal with these incidents. Co-author Rosalind Searle of UofG’s Adam Smith Business School said “This research is long overdue. It clearly shows that it is essential that timely action is taken to restore trust at multiple levels for those in surgery.” 

There have been multiple other studies done recently on sexual assault- all revealing large numbers of reported incidents. A joint study done in May by The Guardian and the British Medical Journal found nearly 35,000 “sexual safety incidents” occurred in NHS hospitals in the last five years. This number represents just the cases that were reported. Experts such as Dr. Sarah Steele, of Cambridge University, suggested that – even when the most conservative estimates were used – the actual number of incidents may be closer to 100,000. The joint study also found an alarming lack of faith in the institutions to deal with such cases, something reflected in many other cases.

This new report has been described as representing “a #MeToo moment for surgery” by Tamzin Cumming, who chairs the Women in Surgery forum at the Royal College of Surgeons in England. She, along with many others who represent various positions within national medical bodies, has called for more precautions to be taken to ensure that the workplace is safe for all surgeons.

The report itself made a number of recommendations to fix the problem, including bringing in an external national body to help with progress. Tim Mitchell, president of the Royal College of Surgeons in England, stated “The Royal College of Surgeons of England is taking this issue incredibly seriously. We will not tolerate such behaviour in our ranks.”


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