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Hundreds of staff experienced bullying at Scottish health board, review says

Hundreds of staff at a Scottish health board have experienced bullying and harassment, according to an independent review. 

The inquiry, led by QC John Sturrock, looked into inappropriate behaviour at NHS Highland, after the Government called for an external investigation into a culture of bullying.

The review suggested that hundreds of NHS staff were potentially inappropriately treated within the health board.

The BMA in Scotland ‘unequivocally condemned’ the culture at NHS Highland, and called it ‘completely unacceptable’ in a profession where those being bullied are making life and death decisions. 

In total 282 respondents were asked to express their views about the allegations and 66% wished to report experiences of ‘bullying, in many instances significant, harmful and multi-layered, and in various parts, at all staffing levels.’

The report stated a significant majority of people are either currently suffering or have for a number of years suffered from ‘fear, intimidation and inappropriate behavior at work’.

The review said: ‘The number of individual cases in which people have experienced inappropriate behaviour which falls within the broad definitions of bullying and harassment described earlier is a matter of the utmost concern. 

‘Many appear to have suffered significant and serious harm and trauma, feel angry and a sense of injustice and want to have their story heard.’

BMA Scotland council chair Lewis Morrison said the report must act as a ‘catalyst for change’.

He said: ‘In any industry, bullying like this would be troubling, but in a service where those bullied are making life and death decisions, and caring for those at a time of crisis, it is completely unacceptable.

‘It reflects the concerns highlighted by doctors who first raised the issue publicly last year – after pursuing it within the organisation for some time. We should be in no doubt that highlighting these concerns was a brave and difficult thing to do.’

He added: ‘This report absolutely has to be a catalyst for change – first and foremost under the new leadership at NHS Highland, but clearly there are also lessons for the whole of Scotland.’

Scottish cabinet secretary for health and sport, Jeane Freeman, said there would be a ministerially-led short-life working group to examine how to move forward and support ‘open and honest workplace cultures’. 

Ms Freeman, said: ‘The review only examined matters in NHS Highland; I want to acknowledge that there is important learning and reflection here for other NHS Scotland health boards and for the Scottish Government.’

The BMA has previously vowed to make bullying culture a priority after doctors blew the whistle on the ‘toxic environment’.