The “bullying culture” in NHS Highland should have been challenged earlier by the Scottish Government, it has been claimed.
Highlands and Islands MSP Edward Mountain criticised ministers for not dealing quickly enough with the scandal when the issue was debated at Holyrood last night.
Last week, the Scottish Government appointed John Sturrock QC to chair an independent review after more than 100 clinicians from across the Highlands called for an investigation into what they called a “culture of intimidation” at the health board.
Earlier this month, four whistleblowers took the case to the Scottish Government to ask for an external review.
But in a Holyrood members’ debate led by Mr Mountain, the Tory MSP claimed more should have been done earlier before Shona Robison was replaced as Health Secretary by Jeane Freeman.
Mr Mountain said: “The huge turnover of non-executive board members in the last five years should have been a flag to the then Health Secretary, but it wasn’t.
“And what should have been a bigger deafening klaxon to the Health Secretary was when the Non-Executive Board passed the following motion on 28th August 2017: `We feel the culture and leadership of the organisation is a risk to our stated values and objectives’. This motion was passed on to the chairman of NHS Highland who has subsequently denied he knew about it and also to the Scottish Government.
“Everything I have seen and heard has convinced me that there is a bullying culture in NHS Highland and it cannot be written off as gossip as the chairman of the board tried to do.”
MSPs supported Mr Mountain’s motion condemning bullying and welcoming the review.
Labour’s David Stewart said: “It seemed to me that there was an underlying toxic culture of bullying, which was clearly having an effect on staff morale and emotional health. “
Ms Freeman said bullying was an abuse of power that offended her “personally and deeply”.
She said: “I am concerned and was concerned about the recent allegations of what amounted to a bullying culture as they emerged in NHS Highland.
“That is why I acted to make sure the serious issues raised could be properly dealt with.
“As those allegations emerged, what was clear was that there was a need for an independent review.”