Bullying and harassment in the NHS in England could be costing the organisation over £2 billion per year, according to new research published in the Public Money & Management.
The study is the first comprehensive estimate of the financial costs of bullying and harassment in the NHS. It uses data from NHS Digital to gauge the impact of bullying on sickness absence, employee turnover, productivity, sickness presenteeism, and employment relations.
Of each individual component, sickness presenteeism was estimated to have the biggest financial impact. Described as the productivity lost when staff continue to come to work while being bullied, and are more prone to making mistakes, presenteeism due to bullying was estimated to cost £604.4 million - double the cost of sickness absence.
The estimated financial cost of all five factors combined was £2.281 billion per year. However, the authors caution that the actual cost could be much higher if consideration is given to factors such as the impact on spectators of bullying at work, NHS reputational damage, and investigation costs for bodies such as the Care Quality Commission (CQC).
In the most recent NHS England staff survey, almost a quarter of staff reported being bullied or harassed by colleagues. Although policymakers have identified reducing levels of bullying and harassment in the NHS as a priority, it is an ongoing issue, with little change in the reported levels of bullying for the past three years.
The study's authors say they hope this new research will give policymakers a crucial financial incentive to tackle bullying in the NHS.