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NHS Highland will decide on compensation over bullying: Health Secretary

A review found a large number of staff at the health board have experienced inappropriate behaviour at work.

Concerns about the culture at NHS Highland prompted a review ordered by the Health Secretary (Peter Byrne/PA)
Concerns about the culture at NHS Highland prompted a review ordered by the Health Secretary (Peter Byrne/PA)

It is for NHS Highland to decide on matters of compensation after a review into allegations of bullying at the health board suggested hundreds of its staff have experienced inappropriate behaviour, the Health Secretary has said.

The independent investigation, led by John Sturrock QC, was commissioned by Jeane Freeman in November after concerns were raised by a group of senior clinicians at the board.

It found a significant majority of those who engaged with the review have “over a number of years, suffered, or are currently suffering, fear, intimidation and inappropriate behaviour at work”.

Asked on BBC Radio Scotland about the issue of compensation, Ms Freeman said: “That’s for the board to decide.

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Jeane Freeman wants the board to look at the details of the report (Jane Barlow/PA)

“The board is the employer in this instance, so they need to think through all the different steps that they think they should take, and they should do that in dialogue with the staff and also with staff unions and staff representatives.

“For me, I’ve got a real focus on how NHS Highland respond to this, but there is a wider issue about the whole of our NHS and what kind of positive culture we should have and currently do have.”

The Health Secretary told the Good Morning Scotland programme that NHS Highland must look very closely at all the details in the report.

She said: “What I’ve asked them to do, and expect them to do, is not only to reflect on all the recommendations and the conclusions in the report, but also then engage directly with their staff about whether or not there is more than what John Sturrock is recommending that staff think should happen.”

At the Scottish Parliament on Thursday, Ms Freeman told MSPs: “I have already apologised to NHS staff in the Highlands and will do so again, I am more than happy to do that.”

On the suggestion that those who have suffered poor treatment should receive an individual apology from ministers or others, Ms Freeman told radio listeners: “I certainly think that people are due an apology and, in addition to what I said in the Parliament, I think both I and the board should consider, along with what John Sturrock says in his report, about what is the best response to those individuals.

“John said in his report that individuals certainly should receive the offer of emotional and psychological counselling support and I expect the board to include that in the early plans that they have about how they respond to this. I’ll be keeping an eye on that.”

She said that with hindsight, perhaps the Government should have intervened earlier, but she insisted it is wrong to say ministers “dithered” on the matter.

She added: “We sent very senior officials to NHS Highland, offered direct support, training and so on to the board and to the then chair and chief executive, to try and assist them to resolve this situation.”

PA

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