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BMA to prioritise tackling health board bullying after GP pressure

BMA Scotland has vowed to make tackling bullying and harassment a priority in the coming year after GP leaders won their battle for an independent inquiry into a ‘toxic environment’ at NHS Highlands.

It comes as one of the doctors who blew the whistle on the problems at NHS Highlands said that they had since been made aware that doctors in other areas of Scotland may be facing similar working environments.

The Scottish Government has announced that John Sturrock QC will investigate the claims made by at least 140 members of staff at NHS Highlands.

Speaking at the BMA Scotland annual LMCs conference in Glasgow, Dr Iain Kennedy, medical secretary at Highland LMC and one of the doctors who raised the alarm about a bullying culture at the health board, said face-to-face interviews should start before Christmas, and the inquiry will report initial findings early next year.

He added: ‘Now, we are aware that GPs across Scotland could be working in similar Health Board cultures.

‘We wish to offer you our support.

‘BMA Scotland has been working closely with us and we are pleased that changing the culture in Scotland’s NHS is a top BMA priority for the year ahead.’

In his speech to conference, Dr Kennedy said he had heard many harrowing stories including some who had felt suicidal.

‘Without exception the victims describe fear of job loss, intimidation, marginalisation and isolation.’

‘Staff have shared stories of job loss, financial hardship and family breakdown.’

Dr Kennedy added that patients were among those who had come forward saying they had been bullied by senior leadership

Chair of BMA Scotland Dr Lewis Morrison said: ‘Recent high profile cases should serve as a timely reminder to us all that bullying and harassment are still far too prevalent in Scotland’s NHS.

‘Indeed our survey of members found more than a third of doctors said that bullying and harassment was an issue in their workplace. This is simply not acceptable.

He added: ‘On that basis, we are clear that improving workplace cultures, and tackling issues around bullying and harassment is a key issue for our members, and therefore something we will be taking forward as a priority – both urgently and across 2019.’

The BMA will be making further announcements about how they will develop this ‘comprehensive programme of work’ in the near future, he said.

NHS Highland have said they welcome the external inquiry.