The First Minister today over-ruled her Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care by re-committing the Scottish Government to hold a debate on the culture of bullying at NHS Highland.
The previous Cabinet Secretary for Health, Jeane Freeman, had promised to hold a full debate on the Sturrock Report in government time back in May 2019. However, more than two years on and the full debate is yet to happen.
The Scottish Government appeared to row back on its promise last week when the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care said that “a debate has not been ruled out” but the Programme for Government will be the “immediate focus for parliamentary debates.”
The First Minister’s u-turn came after Highlands and Islands MSP, Edward Mountain, challenged the Scottish Government to keep its promise to those NHS staff who have been and continue to experience bullying.
During the First Minister’s statement on Covid-19 today, Edward Mountain MSP asked:
“First Minister, the Covid pandemic has shown us just how important our frontline NHS staff are, a point you stressed this afternoon. The pressures they face mean we must protect their wellbeing and provide them with really high-quality leadership. A recent survey, however, suggests that bullying, even during the pandemic, remains a problem within NHS Highland. Last week your Cabinet Secretary reneged on your Government’s promise to bring forward a debate on this issue in the Parliament. First Minister, do you support him and are you happy with breaking your Government’s promise?”
The First Minister initially said: “Bullying in the National Health Service is unacceptable as bullying is unacceptable in any setting.
She then went on to state: “I am perfectly happy for a debate to be held in this Parliament in government time if that is the view and I think the Tories have opposition business tomorrow where it would have been an option for them, it’s entirely up to them to debate this in their time. But I am happy to repeat that commitment that when we are able to that we will bring forward in government time a debate on this issue.”
Following the statement, Edward Mountain MSP said:
“I welcome the Scottish Government’s u-turn and their re-commitment to holding a debate, on their time because it happened on their watch, on the bullying of staff within NHS Highland.
“The wellbeing of some of our NHS staff is at stake and the Scottish Government cannot avoid the issue. Victims of bullying were promised a full debate in government time back in 2019 and it is vital that this takes place sooner rather than later.
“I look forward to the Cabinet Secretary for Health setting out plans for the debate now that he has been told to do so by the First Minister.”