Resolving conflict in the NHS

Plymouth academics Professors Richard Saundry and Duncan Lewis addressed senior NHS managers on the need to combat bullying harassment and develop more strategic approaches to managing workplace conflict, in an event in Birmingham on September 12th. The workshop, ‘Fight, flight or resolution? Managing conflict in the NHS’, organised jointly by NHS Employers and Plymouth’s Institute for Social, Policy and Enterprise Research (iSPER), attracted over 80 delegates from around the UK. Led by Professor Saundry, delegates also heard presentations from Professor Paul Latreille and Professor Jeremy Dawson (University of Sheffield), Clive Lewis (CEO of Globis Mediation Group) and Teresa Jennings (Northumbria Healthcare Trust).

Professor Lewis discussed his work with a number of NHS organisations to highlight the nature and extent of bullying and harassment and look at ways in which such behaviours can be challenged and managed. Professor Saundry, drew on the findings of a programme of research funded by the Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) to explore some of the main barriers to effective conflict resolution.

Professor Saundry commented that ‘in the current climate, NHS staff are working under massive pressure and that inevitably leads to conflict. If that conflict is allowed to escalate, it can be extremely damaging for the organisation and can, in some cases, compromise patient care. Our research has shown that there is a real need to provide managers with the skills to address and resolve difficult situations more effectively. In addition, there are real benefits for organisations if they adopt a more strategic approach where conflict management is seen as inextricably linked with the health and well-being of staff and patients alike’.