Highlands & Islands

Bullied NHS Highland staff told to pursue their own legal claim

NHS meeting
Image caption The meeting took place between board members and former NHS staff

Victims of bullying at NHS Highland have been told they will have to pursue their own legal claim for financial compensation.

Former employees attended a meeting with the board and were told that an employment tribunal would be the main route against the health authority.

The health board said it was the proper way to deal with such claims.

A report found that hundreds of people had experienced bullying at the health board.

Earlier this year, an independent review, led by John Sturrock QC, described bullying and inappropriate behaviour at the health board.

Brian Devlin a former NHS employee and spokesman for the whistleblowers who first aired the bullying claims, said the health authority's approach was unacceptable.

Image caption Brian Devlin is a spokesman for the NHS whistleblowers

"We're going to have to lawyer up, that's basically what the board has told us.

"If anybody is seeking compensation they have to sue the board. Unfortunately, most people can't afford to do that and also there are legal issues such as time bars that prevent people like me who have been out of the board for about 10 years from pursuing that option and they know that."

He added: "We're not works of fiction. We're real true victims of bullying in this organisation and for them to treat the hundreds of people across the Highlands who have been victims, to treat them like that is appalling.

'Healing process'

NHS Highland's human resources director Fiona Hogg said: "It's not that there will be no financial settlement, it's that the route for financial compensation is through the established legal process.

"As a public sector organisation it's really important we make good decisions. We understand that people have been hurt and that they have claims, but we don't have the skills or experience to deal with that in any other way.

"There is an element of time barring with employment tribunals but there is always the opportunity to have that time bar challenged and that is a matter for the employment tribunals to take that forward."

She added: "We will make sure we can give whatever support we can to people and we talked a lot about our healing process today and all the other ways in which we'll support people."

A Scottish government spokesman said: "The Sturrock review articulates very clearly the need to take forward a more compassionate and person-centred approach to leadership and governance.

"New leadership is in place in the board and it has been tasked specifically with responding to the review's substantive recommendations."

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