Morpeth surgeon thrilled to receive MBE in New Year Honours

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A Morpeth surgeon has been made an MBE in the New Year Honours list for her outstanding commitment to helping tackle workplace bullying and undermining within the profession.

Consultant urologist Alice Hartley has played a pivotal role in spearheading the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh’s (RCSEd) Let's Remove It campaign, an initiative aimed at eradicating workplace bullying and undermining in the medical field.

Based at South Tyneside & Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, Alice, chair of the campaign, has spent the past eight years advocating for a safer and more supportive environment for trainees and peers.

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The mum-of-four said: "A letter came through the door and my husband opened it because he thought it was a bill. He was standing in the corridor holding this letter in tears – I wondered what on earth the bad news could be!

Alice Hartley.Alice Hartley.
Alice Hartley.

"Thankfully that wasn't the case. My daughter had drawn me a picture of a unicorn on the same day, so I was looking at that and trying to read this letter at the same time.

"It came completely out of the blue. It's lovely to have the personal accolade but this recognition is not about me; it's a testament to the incredible team I’ve had the privilege of working with on this.

“Their shared commitment to creating a safer and more supportive environment for everyone in our profession has been the driving force.”

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Under Alice’s leadership, RCSEd's Let's Remove It campaign, driven by SAS doctors, consultants and trainees, has pushed for a zero-tolerance stance on bullying behaviours.

Alice, a recipient of the prestigious Hunter Doig Medal in 2018, commented: “We've driven the patient safety angle as research has shown there's a real link between bad behaviour in the medical profession and the impact it has on patient safety.

“Once we scratched the surface, we realised how much work needed to be done and how much could be achieved. Amongst our College membership, the year before taking on this work, there was a survey carried out which found that 40 per cent of people had been bullied or had witnessed it, and this was the catalyst for the campaign being launched.

"The recognition of our campaign underscores the gravity of the issue—people are now taking it seriously, and the tangible impact on patients validates the urgency that compelled us to initiate this in the first place."

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Alice has also been instrumental in the development of a new course within the College, launching this April, named ‘Addressing conflict in teams’. The course aims to teach people skills for speaking up or raising concerns of bullying/undermining or sexual misconduct before the point of escalation.

Alice, whose team was also shortlisted for the BMJ Clinical Leadership Team award in 2018, said: “We’ve seen attitudes shift in recent years and we’re lucky that many other organisations have been carrying out similar work at the same time.

"The backing of the college has been invaluable throughout this fantastic opportunity. I consider myself fortunate to have their unwavering support, fuelling the success and impact of our collective cause.”

Alice will also be involved in an upcoming campaign to tackle sexual misconduct in the workplace being launched by the college.