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NHS Highland bullying inquiry could begin before Christmas

Dr Iain Kennedy holds a file which contains more than 100 reported incidents alleging bullying in NHS Highlands workplaces.
Dr Iain Kennedy holds a file which contains more than 100 reported incidents alleging bullying in NHS Highlands workplaces.

An independent, external QC-led inquiry into the bullying scandal at NHS Highland could start as early as next month.

Union chiefs met yesterday with Shirley Rogers, the director of workforce, leadership and service transformation for NHS Scotland.

GMB Scotland regional organiser Liz Gordon said she was very pleased with the outcome of the meeting, adding: “It is gratifying to know that the Scottish Government have listened to the whistleblowers and the GMB and will put this independent inquiry in place.”

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The decision for a review was made by health secretary Jeane Freeman last month following claims by whistleblowers of a “bullying culture” within the health authority over the last decade.

Liz Gordon said: “It will be an independent, external QC-led enquiry for NHS staff into the culture of bullying.

“The intention is that this will start before Christmas. The QC is yet to be named but this is anticipated in the next week or two.

“I can assure members that this is going to be truly independent and they can have confidence in coming forward.

“NHSH will not have a part to play aside from being asked to fully implement the outcome of the report into Governance that came out in March.”

GMB officials, the four intitial whistleblowers and a number of senior NHS staff are to meet with north politicians on Friday in Inverness.

Attending the event at Eden Court Theatre will be SNP Westminister leader Ian Blackford, shadow health spokesman David Stewart, and Edward Mountain of the Conservative Party.

Mr Stewart MSP said: “It is good news indeed that this inquiry is to launch soon and it’s very important that it is transparent and independent.

“Those who have had the courage to step forward to tell their stories must be protected and feel safe when they appear at any inquiry – that is a vital element for getting to the truth and must be paramount going forward.

“I commend senior clinicians and the GMB union for all their work in bringing these serious claims of bullying and harassment to light.”

Adam Palmer, NHS Highland’s employee director and UNISON representative, said:

“NHS Highland welcomes the mutual agreement of an independent review led by a QC.

“It was a positive meeting and the agreement over the external review is the appropriate way forward.”

He added: “NHS Highland welcomes that there will be independent HR [human resources] support provided for the investigation of individual cases that have come to light since the issue was first raised.”

Almost 200 staff and former staff of NHS Highland have come forward with their own claims after four senior clinicians blew the whistle on the “bullying culture” within the organisation.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “The health secretary has commissioned an externally-led independent review into the allegations of bullying at NHS Highland.

“This review will consider all the circumstances that have led to the allegations and make recommendations, and today’s frank, productive and constructive discussion with staff representatives of NHS Highland will help us finalise the scope for the independent review.

“We will announce who will lead the independent investigation as soon as possible.”


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