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‘Time for talking is over’ – NHS Highland whistleblowers secure financial packages for victims but call for action

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman yesterday met with the whistleblowers of the NHS Highland saga. Picture by Sandy McCook
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman yesterday met with the whistleblowers of the NHS Highland saga. Picture by Sandy McCook

Whistleblowers who blew the lid on bullying in NHS Highland have hailed a meeting with health secretary Jeane Freeman as “valuable” as they learned about new methods of securing compensation.

Eight members of the whistleblowing group met Ms Freeman last night, alongside Gavin Smith of the GMB Union.

They heard that consultants would be drafted in to analyse the case of each employee who has raised complaints about the culture of bullying at the health board, before arranging financial compensation and psychological support.

The politician said after the meeting, hosted at NHS Highland’s base at Assynt House in Inverness, that she shared the frustration of the employees over the pace of progress.

She added that there is a “real need to move things at a quicker pace and begin the exercise of improvement”.

Dr Iain Kennedy with fellow whistle blowers at a meeting at NHS Highland, Assynt House, Inverness.<br />Picture by Sandy McCook

Dr Iain Kennedy, of the whistleblowers, said he was pleased that the board has agreed to work with victims in an “individualised” manner, after they raised concerns about the prospect of seeking compensation through the court process.

Dr Kennedy said: “We made it clear to Jeane Freeman that victims have been re-traumatised by what they heard.

“They were led to believe they would have to lawyer up and perhaps take the board to a tribunal, but that’s now completely out the window.

“Come May it will be one year since the Sturrock review was published. It is going to be very important for victims and members of the board that something actually happens.

“There is definitely a commitment from the Cabinet Secretary that there must be progress.

“The days of talking are over.”

The whistleblowers were left content with their meeting with the health secretary

Mr Smith, who has worked with the whistleblowing group, said: “We were reassured that the cabinet secretary has given a clear steer to NHS Highland that the backlog of cases that are in the system at the minute need to get resolved in a fair and transparent way.

“We need to see some action and it needs to be done soon because people have been in the system for far too long.

“The staff deserve a lot better.”

A follow up meeting between Ms Freeman and the group is due to take place next month to discuss progress.

Ms Freeman said the new approach will help victims “trust that the process will not be tainted by anything that has gone on before”.

She also met senior representatives of NHS Highland yesterday as part of her visit.

She said that despite only being in the role a mere few weeks, current interim chief executive Paul Hawkins has identified the key issues that require addressing.

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