Bullying and harassment in the NHS could be costing the health service more than £2 billion a year in England alone, research suggests.
Going to work while being bullied is the biggest expense at £604.4 million due to staff being more prone to mistakes, a UK report found.
Around a quarter of NHS England staff claim to have been bullied or harassed by colleagues.
This leads to reduced productivity, ‘pulling sickies’ and a high staff turnover.
Bullying and harassment in the NHS could be costing over £2 billion a year in England (stock)
|EXPENSE||COST PER YEAR|
|Sickness attributed to bullying||£302.2 million|
|Reduced productivity||£575.7 million|
|Working while being bullied||£604.4 million|
|Compensation and litigation costs||£83.5 million|
In the first study of its kind, the researchers analysed data from NHS digital to determine how bullying leads to factors like time off work, resignations and productivity.
After combining this data, they estimated the NHS spends £2.281 billion every year on bullying and harassment.
Going to work while being bullied costs twice as much as taking time off as a result of being picked on.
And the £2 billion cost is likely to be an underestimate due to a lack of reliable data being available on some of the factors that eat into funds.
These include how witnesses of bullying are affected, who may then require counselling, and the investigation costs of bodies such as the Care Quality Commission.
The study was published in the journal Public Money & Management.
In an increasingly high-pressure working environment, with rising demands and diminishing resources, many are concerned over the wellbeing of NHS staff.
Bullied staff may feel less able to admit to any mistakes, which could impact patient care, previous research suggests.
Money also has to be invested into the admin, HR and legal costs of bullying investigations, suspensions and disciplinary actions.
There has been little change in the rates of bullying in the NHS over the past three years, despite policymakers stressing targeting abuse and intimidation should be a priority.
The researchers hope their findings will give policymakers a financial incentive to tackle bullying.
‘Research has increasingly demonstrated the risks to patient care and safety, but not addressed the cost to the organisational effectiveness of the NHS,’ study author Professor Duncan Lewis, from the University of Portsmouth, said.
‘We hope this study kick-starts serious attention to the substantial diversion of funding away from patient care that current levels of bullying cause.’
The researchers, which also included Dr Roger Kline, recommend improving staff surveys to better determine the type of bullying behaviours within the NHS.
The study may also help policymakers understand how staff feel about existing measures to tackle bullying and how they can be improved, they add.
‘Estimating the financial cost of bullying should not come at the expense of the moral reasons for tackling bullying and harassment,’ Professor Lewis said.
‘Nonetheless, if our paper means that NHS Trust executives realise the heinous costs of bullying, they may then think about where the additional resources currently wasted through bullying and harassment might be better deployed, which ultimately means more effective patient care.’