Highlands and Islands MSP Edward Mountain today welcomed the publication of John Sturrock QC’s independent report into alleged bullying at NHS Highland.
Responding to the Cabinet Secretary for Health & Sport, Edward Mountain stated:
“I would like to thank John Sturrock for his detailed report. It was only the Scottish Government and casual observers who didn’t recognise there were serious problems in NHS Highland.
John Brown’s Governance Review, published in May 2018 proved it.
And when four senior clinicians made allegations of bullying in September 2018, and I called on the First Minister for an Independent Inquiry, the Government still dithered.
And finally when we get an inquiry we learn and I quote that there was “fear and intimidation” of the staff some who have “suffered significant and serious harm.”
And according to the report it appears that the Scottish Government knew about the dysfunctional nature of NHS Highland in Autumn 2017 and yet did nothing about, waiting to see what others would do.
In my 40 years of professional experience, I have never read such a damning report. And in her statement I did not once hear the word ‘Sorry’.
So let me start by welcoming the belated actions the Cabinet Secretary is announcing.
But to move forward we need to resolve the past.
So let me give the Cabinet Secretary the opportunity, on behalf of the Scottish Government to start off the process rebuilding of our health service by apologising to the staff, patients and people of the Highlands for this situation which is attributable to poor executive management, which is backed up the Sturrock Report.”
The Cabinet Secretary replied that she has apologised to staff of NHS Highland and would again, but denied that the Scottish Government had not taken action on the issue of bullying in NHS Highland.
P. 18 of the report says:
2.46 Senior officials in Scottish Government were aware of the dysfunctional situation with the Board and at senior leadership level for a considerable period of time prior to matters becoming more public in the autumn of 2017.
P. 56 of the Sturrock Report:
13.1 A significant majority of those with whom the review engaged have, over a number of years suffered, or are currently suffering, fear, intimidation and inappropriate behaviour at work. In this chapter, I set out what I have been learned from many sources.
13.2 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. There are, it appears, serious concerns about the mental and physical wellbeing of a significant number of members of staff. There are, I am told, links to anxiety, depression, withdrawal, alcoholism, drug abuse, suicidal thoughts and other serious consequences.
Edward Mountain MSP campaigned tirelessly for an external independent investigation following the allegations made by senior clinicians working in NHS Highland. On 27 September 2018 Edward called on the First Minister to launch an independent investigation, but the First Minister would not agree to the request.
On the 2nd of November, the Scottish Government finally agreed to launch an independent investigation after the executive Board Members of NHS Highland admitted they were “unable to fully understand the nature, extent and causes of the concerns being raised.”
On the 15th of November, following a question from Edward Mountain, the First Minister confirmed that all health care professionals, including those who have signed non-disclosure agreements, should be encouraged to give evidence to the investigation.
On the 27 November, Edward Mountain MSP led a Members’ Debate at the Scottish Parliament calling for the issue of bullying to be resolved “fully and promptly”.
Motion Number: S5M-14643
Lodged By: Edward Mountain
Date Lodged: 06/11/2018
Title: Investigation into Bullying Claims at NHS Highland
That the Parliament condemns bullying in any shape or form; welcomes the independent external investigation to examine the claims of bullying in the workplace at NHS Highland, which was announced by the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport on 2 November 2018, and notes the calls on the Scottish Government to ensure that the matter is resolved fully and promptly.