Female ambulance staff were targeted by “predators” among NHS management who hounded them for sexual favours in return for promotion, according to a damning new report.
Women at South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (Secamb) spoke of being groped, of “highly sexualised gazing” in front of patients and of “sexual predators” who “groomed students” for sex.
Researchers were told that sexualised behaviour was endemic among those in positions of power, but some senior staff interviewed believed those responsible had left the trust.
Secamb commissioned the independent report following concerns raised in its staff survey and a Care Quality Commission (CQC) report last year.
More than 40 per cent of the 2,000 staff who took part said they had experienced bullying over the previous 12 months.
“The researchers heard from several sources about overt and covert sexualised behaviour within Secamb,” the report said.
“This extended from beliefs held about former senior leaders through to frontline managers and the broader workforce.
“Some senior staff interviewed believed such a culture existed with those who had since left Secamb but the researchers were assured this was embedded in some parts of the organisation at management levels.
“For example, female staff talked about sexual favours being sought in return for career progression whilst others were hounded by managers seeking sexual favours for personal reasons.
“Several female staff felt that such behaviours were the norm, with some stating ‘my arse was slapped regularly’ and others who felt they were demeaned by highly sexualised gazing in front of colleagues and even patients.
“Some female respondents talked about ‘sexual predators’ amongst male colleagues who ‘groomed students’ for sexualised ends.
“Some managers felt there was a history of comments being turned to lewd remarks but slowly these were being addressed.”
The report, produced by Professor Duncan Lewis from Plymouth University, said researchers were “shocked” at the levels of staff reporting a range of poor behaviour and that it was a serious problem.
It said: “The researchers were extremely distressed to hear of the experiences of several female Secamb employees.
“The Trust may not of course be aware that such a culture exists as employees are often extremely fearful of speaking out against such practices.
“However, as has been shown time after time, ignorance is no defence and too many British institutions have demonstrated failure to take matters seriously when it comes to sexual abuse.
“This report now brings to the attention of the executive that further investigations will be necessary and action must be taken as an urgent priority to protect employees who are living in fear daily.”
Secamb, which covers Kent, Surrey, Sussex and north east Hampshire, was put into special measures in September last year after the CQC ranked it inadequate.
Additional reporting by Press Association
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