NHS Scotland must tackle bullying problems 'head-on'

Stressed doctor Image copyright Getty Images

The Scottish government must tackle the reasons behind bullying in the NHS "head-on", a leading doctor will warn.

Dr Lewis Morrison, chairman of BMA Scotland, says patient care was being affected by the issue.

And he believes the drive to meet targets is doomed to fail unless steps are urgently taken.

More than 560 allegations of bullying or harassment have been raised across the NHS in Scotland over the past five years.

The figures were obtained by doctors' organisation BMA Scotland following FOI requests to health boards across the country.

It comes after a review earlier this year suggested there had been "hundreds" of bullying allegations at NHS Highland.

Scotland's Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said the Scottish government had contacted health boards across the country to assess the level of reported bullying and the steps being taken to ensure staff have a "safe place".

Dr Morrison has said the NHS should not "squander" the opportunity to tackle the problem.

During a speech in Belfast, he will say the FOI results were unlikely to show the "complete picture" and he will call on NHS Scotland to transform the bullying culture and rebuild trust among staff.

'Wholly inappropriate behaviours'

His speech follows the publication of the Sturrock Report, which considered the bullying allegations at NHS Highland.

The independent investigation was commissioned by Jeane Freeman in November after concerns were raised by a group of senior clinicians.

It concluded that hundreds of members of staff had potentially endured inappropriate behaviour while working at the health board.

In his speech, Dr Morrison is expected to say NHS Scotland has become "such fertile ground for wholly inappropriate behaviours to be carried out".

"I think it is clear that bullying and harassment is the issue that has dominated the NHS in Scotland this year," Dr Morrison will say.

"The issues aren't new but are only now coming fully to light."

He will welcome the NHS Highland review which "makes for stark reading".

Image copyright Douglas Robertson
Image caption Dr Lewis Morrison will say that bullying and harassment issues in NHS are only now "coming fully to light"

And he will urge a working group set up to address the problems to tackle the issues "head-on".

Dr Morrison is also expected to say there must be a move away from a blame culture and instead ensure a system is in place where staff are listened to.

"Doctors and healthcare workers in Scotland must be able to go to work unafraid, knowing concerns will be listened to and dealt with," he will say.

"We need to measure what our NHS does but a blame-driven culture, where we measure arbitrary things like waiting lists, which are simply unachievable, must end - and it must end quickly."

Speaking on BBC radio's Good Morning Scotland programme, Jeane Freeman said: "The chair of the BMA was absolutely right when he said, and I've said before, we cannot expect NHS staff to treat patients with dignity and respect and care if they themselves are not experiencing that as employees of our health service."

She also acknowledged that it was "sensible" to assume bullying was an issue across other areas of the health service.

She added: "As well as the new independent whistle-blower, I will personally be appointing whistle-blowing champions to each of our NHS boards and that person will be accountable to me and will be able to raise directly with me any concerns they have about what's going on inside a particular board."

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