How much is bullying & harassment costing health systems?

2018 09 11 21 03 1659 Bullying Cyber2 400

The effects of bullying and harassment could be costing the in the National Health Service (NHS) in England over 2 billion pounds (2.3 billion euros) per year, according to new research published in Public Money & Management. Almost a quarter of staff reported being bullied or harassed by colleagues in a recent staff survey, the authors noted.

Researchers Prof. Duncan Lewis and Dr. Roger Kline of the University of Plymouth used data from NHS Digital to estimate the financial costs of bullying and harassment upon sickness absence, employee turnover, productivity, "sickness presenteeism" (i.e., going to work despite illness), and employment relations. All of these factors added up to a conservative estimated cost of 2.28 billion pounds (2.6 billion euros).

They noted the overall cost is likely to be substantially higher than that figure, as it did not include costs that lack reliable evidence such as the impact on spectators of bullying at work, NHS reputational damage, and investigation costs for bodies such as the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

The study's authors hope their research will give policymakers a crucial financial incentive to address bullying in the NHS.

"Estimating the financial cost of bullying should not come at the expense of the moral reasons for tackling bullying and harassment," Lewis said in a statement from Public Money & Management publisher Taylor & Francis Group. "Nonetheless, if our paper means that NHS Trust executives realize 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."

Public Money & Management is an academic journal established by the U.K. Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) in 1981 as Public Money to serve as "an independent journal to promote discussion of public sector policymaking". The journal obtained its current title in 1988.

"The NHS in recent years has seen an increase in reported levels of bullying to the point where its impact requires much greater scrutiny," Lewis continued. "Research has increasingly demonstrated the risks to patient care and safety, but not addressed the cost to the organizational effectiveness of the NHS. We hope this study kick-starts serious attention to the substantial diversion of funding away from patient care that current levels of bullying cause."

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