Staff at the University Hospitals Sussex Trust experienced more than 1,000 sexual harassment incidents last year, new survey figures suggest.

For the first time the NHS Staff Survey – an annual poll of all NHS staff, with more than 600,000 responses – asked workers if they had been the target of unwanted sexual behaviour in the previous 12 months, including inappropriate language, sexual jokes or assault.

The survey showed 11.2 per cent of 8,398 respondents said they experienced at least one incident of unwanted sexual behaviour by a member of the public in 2023.

Meanwhile, a further 5.3 per cent of 8,363 staff said a fellow colleague or other staff had behaved in an undesired sexual manner towards them on at least one occasion.

It means there were at least 1,389 incidents of sexual harassment towards staff at the trust last year.

David Grantham, chief people officer at the trust, said: “Abuse of any kind should not be tolerated and our colleagues have a right to feel safe at work.

The Argus: The Royal Sussex in Kemp Town, Brighton, is part of UH SussexThe Royal Sussex in Kemp Town, Brighton, is part of UH Sussex (Image: Sussex News and Pictures)

“Staff have access to a digital reporting system which allows for instant investigation of incidents and support. We have also made great efforts to make it easier for people to raise concerns at any time of day or night, and we are committed to the Sussex-wide NHS drive to protect colleagues from violence.”

The trust includes the Royal Sussex County Hospital and Royal Alexandra Children's Hospital in Brighton, St Richard's in Chichester, Worthing Hospital, Southlands in Shoreham and the Princess Royal in Haywards Heath.

Across England, 8.7 per cent of staff said they experienced unwanted sexual behaviour from a member of the public, while 3.8 per cent said they experience it from fellow staff members.

Professor Vivien Lees, vice president of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, said gathering data on sexual harassment “is an important step as it gives us a better picture of the scale of the problem”.

NHS England launched its sexual safety charter in September, which commits to enforcing a zero-tolerance approach to any unwanted sexual behaviours in the workplace.

Professor Lees added: "It is essential staff members feel empowered to report instances of misconduct without fear of reprisal or negative impact on their career progression."