IHPN signs NHS England sexual safety charter

The Independent Healthcare Providers Network (IHPN) has signed an NHS England workplace charter, committing to a zero-tolerance approach to any unwanted, inappropriate and/or harmful sexual behaviours across the organisation.

The sexual safety in healthcare charter is the first of its kind and was launched on 4 September by NHS England. 

Signatories to the charter commit to taking and enforcing a zero-tolerance approach to any unwanted, inappropriate and/or harmful sexual behaviours within the workplace, and to ten core principles and actions to help achieve this.  

IHPN chief executive, David Hare, said: “We are pleased to be one of the early signatories to this charter, to show our commitment on behalf of our own organisation and the wider sector to this subject.  It’s important that the healthcare sector speaks with one voice to condemn all forms of sexual harassment, and work together to stamp it out.”

“Healthcare providers have a duty of care to the people that work for them, as well as their patients. Organisations across the healthcare system need to work together and individually to tackle unwanted, inappropriate and harmful sexual behaviour in the workplace.”

Hare added: “We will obviously be working towards this as an organisation, and more widely we will be encouraging members to consider doing similarly, building on the good work that already goes on across the sector in this area.”

IHPN director of regulation, Dawn Hodgkins added: “It is very timely that we should be discussing this subject. We heard a few weeks ago with a damning report in the British Journal of Surgery which showed the extent of appalling behaviour towards female surgeons, with 6 in 10 reporting they’d been the target of sexual harassment from colleagues.

This must be a wake up call to make significant and unequivocal change to the culture which has enabled these behaviours to bed in and become so worryingly normalised. Our signing the charter, and highlighting this issue, is a good first step.”

The charter includes 10 principles to help achieve that aim, including: creating a transparent workplace culture; support for those who experience inappropriate sexual behaviours; clear organisational standards of behaviour, including actions that witnesses should take; clear policies, training and reporting mechanisms; and a commitment to take all reports seriously. Signatories pledge to ensure all of the 10 principles are in place by July 2024.