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NHS Highland bullying complaints still high as ‘alarming’ figures released

Raigmore Hospital.
Raigmore Hospital.

Bullying complaints across NHS Highland remain high three years after a damning report revealed hundreds of staff had been victims of a toxic workplace culture.

The latest data released by the health board showed 35 cases had been reported to bosses in 2021-22.

It’s a decline from a total of 40 complaints made across the region the previous year, but still one of the highest rates in the country.

In 2017-18 just five bullying cases were reported. However, this increased to 16 complaints the following year, and 26 in 2019-20.

The health board revealed last year they were preparing to pay out £3.4 million to staff who had been subjected to bullying.

Two people were set to receive payments between £60,000 and £95,000, with a further six being awarded at least £30,000.

A report into the scandal by John Sturrock QC in 2019 sent shockwaves through the health board and highlighted the scale of the crisis.

Elsewhere, NHS Grampian recorded its highest number of bullying complaints in the past five years with 13 registered in 2021-22.

‘Culture of secrecy’

Tory MSP Sandesh Gullhane branded the latest figures across Scotland “deeply alarming”.

He said: “This dramatic rise in bullying cases in Scotland’s health service is deeply alarming – no one should be subjected to intimidation in the workplace.

“Whether it’s the problems at NHS Tayside’s oncology department or the apparent efforts to silence whistle-blowers at Glasgow’s Queen Elizabeth hospital, there is evidence of an unhealthy culture of secrecy and closing ranks in our NHS that must be nipped in the bud.

“Bullying can never be tolerated or covered up, as this creates a dangerous workplace environment where staff are fearful of speaking out.”

A survey by NHS Highland last year revealed there was still work to be done to stamp out the culture of bullying in the health board.

Health secretary Humza Yousaf was urged to act over NHS Tayside bullying complaints.

A spokesperson for NHS Highland said: “The health and wellbeing of staff is a priority for NHS Highland and we will not tolerate bullying or inappropriate behaviour of any kind.

“Any allegations of bullying are taken extremely seriously and we will thoroughly investigate any claims that are highlighted to us.”

An NHS Grampian spokeswoman said: “Bullying behaviour in the workplace is not acceptable.

“Staff are supported and encouraged to raise concerns in line with the relevant policies.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Bullying and harassment is unacceptable in any circumstances and we expect all health boards and their employees to act in line with the values and behaviours expected of everyone in NHS Scotland.

“Ministers have made clear to health boards that bullying and harassment is unacceptable, and we expect them to ensure any reported incidents are taken seriously and fully investigated.”

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