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NHS Grampian drivers to be balloted by union over bullying claims

GMB organiser Melanie Greenhalgh.
Picture by Darrell Benns.
GMB organiser Melanie Greenhalgh. Picture by Darrell Benns.

Drivers responsible for transporting vital and life-saving equipment around the north-east are to be balloted by a union amid claims bullying at NHS Grampian is making ‘life not worth living’.

The GMB plans to launch a consultative ballot with members based at Foresterhill over claims of unacceptable levels of intimidation by management there.

They are doing so amidst allegations levels of bullying have escalated to the point that it is now worse than that exposed by whistleblowers within NHS Highland, which was plunged into crisis and special measures after it came to light.

The mental health of some is said to have suffered and options now being put to around 40 drivers and store workers within NHS Grampian would include industrial action short of striking.

Drivers are tasked with moving medical equipment such as dialysis machines and incubators for NHS Grampian, to sites across Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire and Moray.

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One worker, who did not wish to be named for fear of reprisals, claimed bosses at the health board’s central stores in Aberdeen had been bullying staff for three years.

They said: “You don’t understand how bad it is at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary. If you don’t do what they want, life is not worth living”.

The source claimed bosses’ behaviour was even worse than that outlined in the government-commissioned Sturrock report, which looked at the bullying and harassment within NHS Highland.

Yesterday an NHS Grampian spokesman declined to comment directly on the allegations but said: “We continue to work closely with all staff and trade union representatives around a number of concerns raised within the service and are confident that we will move to a mutually agreeable position”.

The drivers’ grievances were first reported in The Press & Journal last July, when concerns were raised over the purchase of new lorries.

NHS Grampian governance rules dictate staff should be consulted on new equipment bought for their use.

But union bosses questioned the suitability and safety of the fleet of Mitsubishi Fuso Canters bought by the health board. They were later replaced.

GMB members also complained about the purchase of manual lifting and loading equipment to replace hydraulic gear.

The dispute led to the new kit sitting unused for months while discussions continued – until it was fitted without prior warning earlier this month, union bosses said.

Issues have also raised about how management communicate with staff.

GMB’s north-east organiser Melanie Greenhalgh yesterday said the actions taken went against NHS policies and processes.

“We had assurances from the chief executive, Amanda Croft, that these dock levellers would not be fitted without full consultation.

“They were and this is the straw that has broken the camel’s back.

“Management at central stores seem to think they can just do what they like and staff are feeling completely undervalued.

“They are at rock bottom. This is affecting their mental health.

“You could use the word bullying. There is certainly extremely negative and intimidating behaviour from management.”

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