Victims of the NHS Highland bullying scandal will have to seek compensation through the legal system, the health authority revealed yesterday.
The “toxic bullying culture” at NHS Highland was exposed by a group of whistleblowing doctors wand led to a government-led inquiry which produced the damning Sturrock Report.
At yesterday’s health board meeting in Inverness, HR director Fiona Hogg delivered a report on the progress of the Culture Fit for the Future programme.
But according to an NHS Highland release, it has been decided that the healing process “will not extend to matters of financial loss or compensation”.
The whistleblowers yesterday voiced their anger at the move, describing it as “a slap in the face” that could price victims out of compensation if they cannot afford to pursue the legal process.
Linda Kirkland, formerly the NHS Director of Operations for the Inner Moray Firth, said the staggered implementation is leaving her “re-traumatised” nearly a year on from the beginning of the Sturrock report.
She said: “I was disappointed, absolutely, to hear how little we have moved on.
“I think it is of particular concern that we now have to lawyer up to look at how we can claim some sort of compensation.
“Jeane Freeman, at the beginning of this process, made it very clear that there would be bespoke packages for both psychological support and financial support.”
She said she and her colleagues have suffered “significant harm” and feels their concerns have been “ignored”.
She added: “I think this is a slap in the face.”
NHS Highland Chief Executive Iain Stewart defended the health board’s approach and said he believes time is needed to ensure it is carried out correctly.
When asked about the route of compensation for bullying victims, Mr Stewart said it is “important” to stick to existing processes, adding that they are “tried and tested” and are the “correct processes to go through”.
Local elected members yesterday expressed their disappointment at the revelation.
Highlands and Islands MSP David Stewart described the process as a “huge blow” for those who have “had their careers ruined”.
Fellow regional MSP Edward Mountain added: “We need a process that reaches out to victims” adding that he does not believe that will be achieved through legal processes.
See video for Myra Duncan, former non-executive director of the NHS Highland board, speaking of how she felt “undermined and humiliated around the board table.”