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‘I was harassed in almost half the jobs I worked as a surgeon’: Retired doctor speaks out | UK News

A retired surgeon says she was harassed in “almost half the jobs” she worked as a junior trainee.

Dr Liz O’Riordan spoke out as a new survey found almost a third of NHS female surgical staff have been sexually assaulted in the last five years.

Among the UK’s surgical workforce, 63% of women and 23% of men have experienced being sexually harassed by colleagues, the study found.

Assaults ranged from genitals or breasts being touched to rape.

Dr O’Riordan, a retired onco-plastic breast surgeon, said she was shocked “it’s still happening today”, after experiencing repeated harassment during her training.

“When I was operating, one of my consultants asked across the table ‘Who was I sleeping with?’ Because I ‘look like I could go a round or two’,” she told Sky News.

“At the time when I was training, it was common – surgery was and still is a male-dominated environment. And when you’re in the operating theatre, you are very vulnerable.

“You are wearing thin scrubs, stood shoulder to knee with the men you’re working with for many hours at a time.

“And it’s very easy for lewd comments or wandering hands to enter your field.”

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Surgical staff sexually assaulted

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Dr O’Riordan said many surgeons feared being labelled “difficult” if they raised a complaint and worried that the men would refuse to train them.

“I think it’s a small number of repeat offenders, but because women make up such a small amount of the workforce, then they are likely to work with these men,” Dr O’Riordan said.

Liz as a trainee surgeon
Liz as a trainee surgeon

Surgeons ‘slow’ to speak out

Tim Mitchell, the president of the Royal College of Surgeons, told Sky News he regretted instances where he had not been quick to speak out.

“I still am working as a surgeon and I have been aware of circumstances. I have called people out on occasions, been aggressive in the past.

“I may have not been quick enough to do that.

“It’s quite difficult to do in the heat of the moment, but we need to encourage people to call out such behaviour so that we can around cases.”

‘NHS staff are worked to the bone’: Health secretary Steve Barclay challenged by mother during hospital visit | Politics News

A mother has challenged health secretary Steve Barclay during a hospital visit, telling him that NHS staff are being “worked to the bone”.

Sarah Pinnington-Auld said her three-year-old daughter Lucy, who has cystic fibrosis, was pushed off the “absolutely horrific” waiting list at King’s College Hospital in Denmark Hill, London, because of “the obscene number of people who came through and the lack of resources”.

“That’s what is really upsetting actually because we have a daughter with a life-limiting, life-shortening condition,” she told Mr Barclay.

“We have brilliant experts that are being worked to the bone and the level of care… they’re not being able to provide it in the way they want to provide it.

“The staff are amazing, the NHS staff are incredible, and they are particularly even more incredible because they are working under such rough conditions.”

Politics live: Health secretary says he is keen to talk to unions

She cited the pressures facing King’s College Hospital and added that “it’s not fair to blame it on the pandemic anymore is it, because actually we have problems in the NHS before we went into the pandemic”.

She added: “We were short of doctors, we were short of beds going into the pandemic so I think it is really wrong to blame it on the pandemic.”

And on bed shortages, she told the health secretary: “We have people who can’t get into health and social care and are taking up beds.

“So until you as a government prioritise health and social care, we are not going to free up the already limited number of beds.”

The mother-of-two said Mr Barclay responded to her concerns by saying the government was investing more money into the health service

Ms Pinnington-Auld has previously posted on social media about her support for the Labour Party.

Mr Barclay is understood to be writing to the unions to request fresh talks over strike action – but sources say he still won’t discuss increasing their wages.

Both nurses and ambulance workers are set to stage walkouts this week amid ongoing anger over pay and working conditions.