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Ambulance sector vows to improve sexual safety

Published on: 5 Oct 2023

The ambulance sector has signed up to a consensus statement in a bid to tackle misogyny and improve sexual safety for its staff and patients.

The statement – which chief allied health professions officer for England Suzanne Rastrick launched at this week’s Ambulance Leadership Forum – commits the service to a “cultural transformation”.

Several ambulance trusts have been criticised for a culture which includes “highly sexualised banter” in recent years, with reports highlighting sexual harassment, often of younger female staff.

The statement’s guiding principles include: a focus on protecting staff from misogyny and inappropriate sexual behaviour; removing barriers to speaking up and supporting those affected; and working towards an inclusive culture where staff understand misogyny and come to work feeling “sexually safe”.

It recommends several evidence-based actions, including increasing diversity – which is associated with a lower risk of sexual misconduct – and improving inclusion. It suggests staff who wish to report sexual or misogynistic concerns should be able to bypass normal line management and some complex cases – including non-recent ones – may need to be handled by an independent adviser, while adding that trusts may need access to specialist perpetrator behaviour change support.

Ms Rastrick said: “Those who work, train and learn within the ambulance service have the right to be safe at work. Guided by the international evidence, our priority from the outset of this work has been supporting all those within the ambulance service and strengthening the systems that will change individual experience.”

Addressing the ALF – which brings together senior ambulance staff from across the UK – she added: “Until no one has a story to tell there is work for us all to do.”

Daren Mochrie, Association of Ambulance Chief Executives chair, said: “Improving sexual safety and reducing misogyny within the NHS ambulance sector is a priority, which we are working towards and are making progress with.

“However, we hope these documents and our associated combined efforts will underline our commitment and result in the cultural shift needed to ultimately ensure that all our employees, volunteers and learners feel safe and fairly treated, regardless of gender.”