Highlands & Islands

NHS Highland plan to tackle bullying claims

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Image caption Concerns raised by a group of senior clinicians prompted an independent review and now an action plan to tackle bullying

NHS Highland has produced an action plan setting out how allegations of bullying within the health board would be handled in future.

It comes after the board was accused of a "culture of bullying" last year.

A review of the allegations led by John Sturrock QC suggested that potentially hundreds of staff had experienced inappropriate behaviour.

Of the 280 NHS staff who took part in face-to-face meetings with the review team, 66% reported bullying.

The independent review, which was done between late 2018 and early this year, was contacted by a total of 340 staff from most departments, services and occupations at NHS Highland.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman was in Inverness on Friday for an update on NHS Highland's action plan.

Bullying claims timeline

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Image caption Health Secretary Jeane Freeman requested an independent review of allegations of bullying
  • 26 September 2018: A group of senior clinicians at NHS Highland speak out about what they claim to be a culture of bullying at the health board. The doctors say that for at least a decade there has been a "practice of suppressing criticism, which emanates from the very top of the organisation"
  • 2 October: NHS Highland seeks a resolution to the allegations through a meeting with the clinicians, but the doctors call for the matter to go to a public inquiry
  • 5 November: Health Secretary Jeane Freeman requests an independent external investigation to examine allegations of bullying within NHS Highland
  • 23 November: John Sturrock QC appointed to lead an independent review of the allegations
  • 9 May 2019: Independent review report published
  • 28 May: NHS Highland's board apologises "unreservedly" for bullying and inappropriate behaviour experienced by members of its staff

Ahead of her meeting with the board, Ms Freeman paid tribute to the "many caring, supportive, diligent and highly-skilled staff" working at NHS Highland.

However, she said all health boards in Scotland had been sent a copy of the report, adding: "I want boards to foster opportunities for open and active dialogue with all staff to ensure that there is a positive working culture for everyone."

NHS Highland's chief executive Iain Stewart said the health board was making "good progress" with improvements.

He said: "We have produced an action plan, which we have shared with the Scottish government and our staff, which sets out exactly how we will ensure our people are valued, respected and that their voices are heard."

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