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An investigation into allegations of bullying at NHS Highland has concluded a review of Fort William’s Belford Hospital ‘would be useful’, after the findings of the inquiry were published last week.
The long-anticipated report, conducted by John Sturrock QC, suggested ‘many hundreds’ of staff experienced inappropriate behaviour across the health board. It also found staff had described suffering ‘fear, intimidation and inappropriate behaviour at work’.
A total of 340 people from a broad cross-section of NHS Highland engaged with the review, although just two per cent of respondents – seven people – came from Lochaber, the majority coming from Inverness and Raigmore Hospital.
However, Mr Sturrock recommended a review of practices at the Belford Hospital.
‘There are concerns about its isolated nature, burnout and longevity of senior staff, the relationship with other hospitals in NHS Highland and
some inappropriate behaviours,’ he said in the report. ‘I suspect these will be well-known to senior management.’
In September last year, more than 100 healthcare workers from across the Highlands came forward claiming there was a ‘severe bullying culture’ at the health board, with one ‘serious case’ being reported at the Belford.
The final report was met with a lukewarm response from the whistleblowers who triggered the investigation as they felt the review had not gone far enough in tackling the problem.
Health secretary Jeane Freeman has announced a package of measures in response to the report. A summit will be held this summer to consider what more can be done to promote positive workplace practices across the NHS.
NHS Highland said it welcomed the findings of the report and said it will not tolerate unacceptable behaviour under any circumstances.
Professor Boyd Robertson, interim chairman of the health board, said they will ‘take stock’ and try to implement Mr Sturrock’s recommendations ‘to foster a positive and inclusive culture’.
Lochaber MSP Kate Forbes paid tribute to staff members ‘brave enough to come forward’ and share their experiences.
Ian Blackford, MP for Lochaber, added: ‘What must happen now is that the review recommendations are implemented. A culture change, led from the top, must allow better staff relationships to flourish.’