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The Authority publishes research report on sexual misconduct

The Professional Standards Authority (the Authority) has published a research report analysing the circumstances of incidents of sexual misconduct by health and social care professionals. The report was funded by the Authority and undertaken by Professor Rosalind Searle, Chair in Human Resource Management and Organisational Psychology at the University of Glasgow.

In Sexual misconduct in health and social care: understanding types of abuse and perpetrators’ moral mindsets Professor Searle has reviewed the academic and research literature on the key theories and explanations for why this kind of misconduct occurs, and analysed records held by the Authority in 232 fitness to practise cases involving registrants of the General Medical Council, the Nursing and Midwifery Council, and the Health and Care Professions Council.

Professor Searle’s findings include:

  • Perpetrators are predominantly male
  • Male perpetrators are more likely to repeatedly target multiple individuals, whereas female perpetrators are more likely to have a single target with multiple incidents
  • Patients are the predominant target group, with vulnerable individuals a significant subcategory
  • Workplaces are the dominant location for incidents, with perpetrators frequently working in mental health settings
  • Perceived disparities in regulatory sanctions can create ambiguity for perpetrators
  • Perpetrators deny and diffuse responsibility for their actions, distorting consequences and blaming targets.

Professor Searle recommends:

  • Training, supervision and awareness raising
  • Clearer policies and guidelines, especially in known hotspots
  • Further research into occurrence in mental health settings
  • A clearer framework within which sanctions are applied across professions.

You can read the full report here or see a visual summary of the key findings.


Contact: Douglas Bilton, Assistant Director of Standards and Policy

Reception: 020 7389 8030


Notes to the Editor

  1. The Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care oversees nine statutory bodies that regulate health and social care professionals in the UK
  2. We assess their performance and report to Parliament. We also conduct audits and investigations and can appeal fitness to practise cases to the courts if we consider that sanctions are insufficient to protect the public and it is in the public interest.
  3. We also set standards for organisations holding voluntary registers for health and social care occupations and accredit those that meet them.
  4. We share good practice and knowledge, conduct research and introduce new ideas to our sector. We monitor policy developments in the UK and internationally and provide advice on issues relating to professional standards in health and social care.
  5. We do this to promote the health, safety and wellbeing of users of health and social care services and the public. We are an independent body, accountable to the UK Parliament.
  6. Our values are at the heart of who we are and what we do. We are committed to being impartial, fair, accessible and consistent in the application of our values.
  7. More information about our work and the approach we take is available at