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Sunday, October 24, 2021

NHS Highland pays out millions to bullied staff


NHS Highland says it expects to pay £3.4m in settlements to current and former staff who have complained of bullying.

In 2018, whistleblowers exposed a “culture of bullying” at NHS Highland.

According to a review commissioned by the Scottish government, hundreds of health workers may have been subjected to inappropriate behaviour.

Since the start of a “healing process,” 150 cases have been settled, costing the health board more than £2 million.

According to the independent review panel that evaluated the 150 complaints, two cases involved settlements ranging from £60,000 to £95,000, while 61 involved payments ranging from £5,000 to £15,000.

A group of Highlands GPs first complained of a culture of bullying at NHS Highland in September 2018.

An independent review by lawyer John Sturrock QC the following year found there were potentially hundreds of people who had experienced bullying at the health board.

340 people from NHS Highland’s various departments, services, and occupations were contacted for the review. Over 280 people attended face-to-face meetings or submitted written submissions.

Bullying was reported by 66 percent of those polled.

Employees stated that they did not feel valued, respected, or supported while performing “very stressful work.”

Others reported not being listened to when raising concerns about patient safety, and decisions being made “behind closed doors.”

According to the review, “many described a culture of fear and of protecting the organisation when issues are raised.”

Jeane Freeman, the health secretary at the time, apologised and stated that other health boards should learn from her mistakes.

She described the health board’s culture as “unacceptable,” and she agreed with the review’s recommendations.

These included educating all employees about the dangers of bullying and establishing a “properly functioning, clear, safe, and respected wholly independent and confidential whistleblowing” mechanism.

Officials stated in a report to its board that the final settlement total was expected to be £3.4m.

They stated that this was less than the previously estimated cost of £4.2m, and that funding provided by the Scottish government “should be sufficient” to cover the settlements.

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