Reports into NHS Highland bullying make ‘difficult reading’

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Health and social bosses have been told that a panel looking into allegations of bullying by NHS Highland staff will probably still be sitting until the end of the year.

The health board’s human resources director Fiona Hogg told an online meeting of the integration joint board (IJB) of Argyll and Bute Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP) that recommendations from two reports by an independent panel on the matter had been accepted.

The meeting heard that the reports on the healing process, based on accounts shared by former and current NHS Highland colleagues who experienced bullying in the period up to December 31, 2019, had made for ‘difficult reading’ but was ‘nothing compared to the experiences of people who took part in the process.’

Ms Hogg said the organisation would now ‘move forward’ in the areas that the panel suggested the health board invest in and to make sure past experiences were not repeated.

‘We recognise and accept the recommendations and we repeat our sincere apologies to anybody who experienced bullying or inappropriate behaviour while working for us,’ she said.

The second of the two completed reports was only received by the health board around 10 days ago, an initial review has been carried out and some comments around the recommendations have been made, she said – adding that ‘important’ broad scrutiny had not been finished.

Although the healing process closed to applicants at the end of Wednesday March 31 after a one-month extension at the Scottish Government’s request, Ms Hogg told the meeting because of the volume it was expected the independent review panel would continue to sit until the end of 2021 for people who want to have their cases heard.

Reports will continue to come to the board and be shared with the IJB on a quarterly basis.

Ms Hogg said while significant process had been made: ‘We do not underestimate the programme of work that is under way, and needs to be in place to address the recommendations. We are committed to making NHS Highland a great place to work and for colleagues to work in a kind and compassionate way with each other.’

And she pledged the health board would continue to invest in resources and time to change the culture saying a detailed resource and budget proposal will soon be going before executive directors.

Sarah Compton-Bishop, non-executive director of NHS Highland who will also become the new IJB person in May, said the NHS Highland board had discussed these reports’ findings and recommendations in detail and at length the previous day.

‘All members of the NHS Highland board fully acknowledge and accept everything in these reports. It was very difficult reading, but nothing compared to the experiences of people who took part in the process,’ she said.

Oban  councillor Kieron Green, who is stepping down from the IJB chairperson role, said: ‘We welcome the ongoing process with addressing the issues raised, and it is something we will also continue to take forward locally.’

Ms Hogg also told the meeting about the launch of a Speak Up, Listen Up campaign as part of the health board’s whistle blowing standards, not just encouraging people to talk about concerns but urging others to take action when someone raises concerns with them.