Complaints of bullying and harassment at NHS Highland continue to be a “live issue” and not just an historic one – with a “fear” still existing within the health authority, its board was warned yesterday.
Fiona Hogg, director of human resources, outlined a number of new initiatives that had been introduced since whistleblowers came forward two years ago and were proving to be successful – but she confirmed they still “typically have one or two cases every month”.
She also revealed that a “Guardian Service” implemented in August to give staff support and advice had 51 calls and 88 emails in the first month.
While most were calls seeking a fuller understanding about the service, 32 resulted in cases being formally raised. Seventeen have “already been successfully closed”.
The figures were revealed during a discussion about the ongoing progress of a “Culture Programme” within NHS Highland following the whistleblowers scandal – exposing a culture of bullying and harassment at the health authority for more than a decade.
Board member Adam Palmer, elected by staff side representatives is Unison branch secretary, welcomed the new initiatives, but warned: “There is still a fear in the organisation.
“This is not an historical issue only, but a live issue about behaviours happening now. There is a perception in parts of the organisation that nothing has changed and you are not addressing this.”
Fiona Hogg responded: “It is really important for us to recognise what a long journey we are on. We are a complicated organisation of 10,500 people.
“There are still some incidents you would expect to come through, but not a large number of formal complaints being raised.
“We are facing challenging times for the NHS overall. We will always experience difficulties in relationships when at work. We need to ensure ways to understand the feelings of people.”
Chairman Professor Boyd Robertson added: “This is a long-term initiative. Actions have been taken and different mechanisms put in place.
“Initiatives have already succeeded in getting a response from the workforce. We are on a journey here. It is going to take time to address some issues. You can’t change behaviours overnight.
“We need to have patience as a board and an organisation in addressing major challenges of culture. We can only do so much in a period of time. We have to phase some of these activities, but we have made substantial progress already. I would be committed to making further changes.”