Good medical practice – why we all deserve to be RespectED at work, and beyond 

Published by RCEM Comms on

RCEM President, Adrian Boyle, 22 August 2023

Today (22 August 2023) the General Medical Council has published an update of ‘Good medical practice’ which is defined as ‘detailing the principles, values and standards of doctors working in the UK’   

Until now it hadn’t been updated for 10 years.   

The new version comes into effect on 30 January 2024, but it is available to review now.   

For the first time sexual harassment of colleagues is covered explicitly.   

The guidance says doctors ‘must not act in a sexual way towards colleagues with the effect or purpose of causing offence, embarrassment, humiliation or distress’.   

 And in keeping with the digital age (and because we all know the NHS is run via WhatsApp!) it also includes verbal or written comments and displaying or sharing images – as well as physical contact  

 This new element adds to existing guidance that doctors must not act in a sexual way towards patients or use their professional position to ‘pursue a sexual or improper emotional relationship’.  

 For the first time it also sets out what doctors should do if they witness bullying or harassment.  

 Great that there is an explicit reference and zero tolerance of such behaviours.    

 Not great that it is needed.   

 At RCEM we are more than aware of the effect bullying, incivility, harassment (sexual or otherwise) can have – on those who experience it, and in some cases those who witness it but feel powerless to intervene.  

 And it is important to recognise that bullying is more than arguments and rudeness; it can be so much more subtle than that.   

It can include excluding people, ignoring people and their contribution; overloading people with work; spreading malicious rumours; unwarranted differential treatment; regularly undermining someone; and denying someone training or other opportunities.   

 It also disproportionately effects people who are from ethnic minorities, who are LGBTQIA+ or who have a disability.   

It is incredibly insidious, and incredibly harmful. Not just to the victim but also to the patients who are being looked after by a dysfunctional team.  

 That is why we launched our own ‘RespectED’ awareness campaign along with Civility Saves Lives.    

 It asks people to consider their own behaviours as well as urging them to act if they witness behaviours from other which fall below expected standards.    

 And provides practical help if you find yourself in such a situation and how to support others who find themselves on the receiving end.  

 Emergency Departments are by their very nature busy, stressful and sometime chaotic places.   

In this setting it is easy to become fraught – but when the going gets tough, working relationships should not get tougher.   

 The job is hard enough without making it more so by the way we act, speak, or behave towards our colleagues (and / or our patients).   

 No one should be made to feel bullied, harassed, fearful, or demeaned at work – or anywhere else.  

The crazy world of Emergency Medicine only works when we are a team – so today take some time to think if you would want you as a colleague? Or as the clinician treating you?   

 And if you don’t like the answer – makes some changes.   

 Not just because the GMC says you must, but because it is better for everyone – not least our patients.  


 * Watch our RespectED video here – RespectED – Royal College of Emergency Medicine Anti-Bullying Campaign – YouTube  


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