Bullying and harassment drains £2.3bn from the NHS in England every year, according to a conservative estimate totted up for a new study.
The price of fear: estimating the financial impact of bullying and harassment, counted the costs of sickness, productivity and legal costs on hospitals, among others factors.
The chief cost of £604m a year came from ‘presenteeism’, putting a price on the in loss performance of staff who come into work unwell, owing to stress or other problems.
Sickness absence as a result of bullying and harassment added £302m to the bill. The total excludes major costs which are difficult to predict for lack of data, such as the impact on staff who witnessed bullying behaviour and the cost to the reputation of the NHS as a ‘good employer’.
‘With the massive budgetary pressure facing the NHS, it is more relevant than ever to address the real cost of bullying, both moral and financial,’ the study states.
‘The evidence in this paper indicates the importance of urgent material engagement to address bullying in the UK NHS.’
Bullying and harassment in the UK included a range of behaviours, including unreasonable management pressure, incivility between co-workers and violence from patients, and their relatives, it adds.
Middlesex University research fellow and co-author Roger Kline said he hoped the article would ensure costs were factored into the bullying and harassment debate as concern about tackling it grew.
‘Firstly, health leaders have to see there is a problem. Some trusts will still say, ‘we have the average level of bullying in the NHS, so we’re OK’, he added.
‘Others think the national staff surveys includes “robust management” as bullying behaviour. That’s avoidance and denial I’m afraid.
‘We need to ask: why do some organisations permit and cultivate these behaviours, which are costly in all directions?’
BMA representative body chair Anthea Mowat, who is leading the association’s campaign to end bullying and harassment, said the figures showed the NHS could not afford not to take action.
‘We already know that many doctors are counting the personal cost of bullying and harassment at work. It’s not only harmful to staff, it’s damaging to patient care, as countless inquiries have found. These new figures put a conservative but considerable price on the financial costs to the NHS in England.’
‘At £2.3bn every year, it should be enough to make managers and health leaders sit up and take action. We need to end the culture of bullying and harassment where it has taken hold once and for all.’