Staff at Dorset County Hospital (DCH) experienced more than 150 sexual harassment incidents last yeaR.

For the first time ever, the NHS Staff Survey, an annual poll of all NHS staff, asked workers if they had been the target of unwanted sexual behaviour in the previous 12 months, which includes inappropriate language, sexual jokes or assault.

The survey showed 7.3 percent of 1,409 respondents at DCH had experienced at least one incident of unwanted sexual behaviour by a member of the public in 2023.

Meanwhile, a further 4.5 percent of 1,414 staff at the Dorchester hospital said a fellow colleague or other staff had behaved in an undesired sexual manner towards them on at least one occasion.

In comparison, across England, 8.7 percent of staff said they experienced unwanted sexual behaviour from a member of the public, while this fell to 3.8 percent for fellow staff members.

It means there were at least 166 incidents of sexual harassment towards a member of staff at DCH last year.

A spokesperson for the hospital said: “We take matters relating to unwanted sexual behaviour very seriously and this behaviour is never acceptable.

“We have already signed up to a national NHS Sexual Safety Charter, committing to a zero-tolerance approach to any unwanted, inappropriate and/or harmful sexual behaviour towards our workforce.

“Last year we asked all staff to share their views and experiences on this important topic, and we have reopened the survey again to improve our understanding and agree actions needed.

“All our staff are encouraged to come forward to report unwanted sexual behaviour and to receive support.”

The survey also revealed higher rates of bullying and discrimination against ethnic minorities than white staff.

Staff from ethnic groups are 4 percent more likely to experience harassment, bullying or abuse from patients, relatives or the public.

Twenty-two percent of ethnic groups reported suffering harassment, with 18 percent of white staff reporting harassment.

The average across England for ethnic groups reporting harassment, abuse or bullying from the public was 28.6 percent, compared to 24.7 percent of white people.

A DCH spokesperson added: “Although the number of staff experiencing harassment, bullying or abuse from patients, relatives or the public has reduced, this behaviour will not be tolerated.

"It is particularly concerning that staff from ethnic minority communities are more likely to experience it and we will be asking those colleagues to tell us more about what we can do to protect them.

“Most people who come to DCH are kind and respectful when interacting with staff, but when they are not, we will not hesitate to act. In the most serious instances, we will report offenders to the police.”