Staff at the trust running Watford General, St Albans and Hemel Hempstead hospitals suffered more than 200 sexual harassment incidents in 2023, according to new data.

As part of the 2023 NHS Staff Survey, workers at West Hertfordshire Teaching Hospitals Trust were asked if they had experienced inappropriate sexual behaviour while at work.

This could mean inappropriate language, sexual jokes or assault.

The research revealed at least 207 reported incidents of sexual harassment against employees across the trust, which operates the three hospitals.

Figures show that 6.1 per cent of 2,191 respondents, or 133 people, said they had received unsolicited behaviour from a member of the public last year.

A further 3.4 per cent, or 74 out of 2,188 staff, responded that a colleague had behaved inappropriately towards them.

Andrew McMenemy, the trust's chief people officer, said: “No member of staff should be subject to sexual harassment or experience any form of abuse while at work.” 

Watford Observer: The trust operates the Watford General, St Albans and Hemel Hempstead hospitals.The trust operates the Watford General, St Albans and Hemel Hempstead hospitals. The figures are below the average across England as 8.7 per cent nationally reported unwanted sexual behaviour from a member of the public and 3.8 per cent from fellow staff members, totalling more than 80,000 reports nationwide.

Mr McMenemy said while the figures are below the national average, the trust continues to introduce measures to help staff.

“These include signing up to the NHS sexual safety in healthcare charter; creating a staff network to tackle sexism in medicine; and developing robust policies against bullying and harassment,” he added. 

“The trust has an internal safeguarding team and wellbeing resources to support staff who have experienced harassment or abuse. 

“The trust also provides a safe space for staff to raise concerns through a confidential ‘freedom to speak up’ process.”

Royal College of Surgeons of England vice president Professor Vivien Lees said gathering data on sexual harassment "is an important step as it gives us a better picture of the scale of the problem.

"It is essential staff members feel empowered to report instances of misconduct without fear of reprisal or negative impact on their career progression."

Last September, NHS England launched its sexual safety charter which will enforce a zero-tolerance approach to any unwanted sexual behaviours at work.

Healthcare organisations who signed the charter must implement all of its 10 commitments by July 2024.