Health board may compensate bullied staff

NHS Highland chair says payouts for staff harmed by scandal are being considered

Tuesday 3rd September 2019

A health board at the centre of a bullying scandal is considering making compensation payments to affected staff, who are also being offered psychological help.

An independent review carried out by John Sturrock QC earlier this year found ‘hundreds’ of staff at NHS Highland were affected by a culture of bullying.

The issue was on the agenda today as MSPs on Holyrood’s health & sport committee quizzed representatives from the health board.

NHS Highland’s chief executive Iain Stewart said a draft action plan had been set up, which will be developed in conjunction with staff.

He said: “One of the workings in our action plan is supporting the people who have been bullied, so we are looking at various ways of supporting them – we are looking at counselling, mediation, we have our occupational health department.

“Both the chairman and myself have welcomed colleagues to come in and speak to us and listen to the harm that has been caused – and there has been some harm caused.

“We will absolutely be supporting these people as much as we can without a doubt – that includes psychological help.”

The NHS Highland officials were asked if any financial help was on offer for staff whose careers had been ruined and sometimes left unable to work.

Professor Boyd Robertson, interim chair, said: “We are working through the recommendations of the Sturrock report…one of the areas we will be looking at is the area of compensation, but we are not yet able to give a definitive answer on how we are going to deal with that.”

MSPs also heard that NHS Highland hopes to break even financially in three years’ time, with around £11m required in ‘brokerage’ loans from the Scottish Government this year and then £8m next year.

Mr Stewart said the three main overspending areas were medical staffing – especially locums – drugs, and social care.

A two-day workshop was held last week by NHS Highland and attended by board members, non-executive directors and senior management to discuss the findings of the Sturrock Review.

The workshop which was one of the key recommendations made in the report.

Following it senior leadership said a number of actions will be taken immediately, including the setting up of a “single process for restitution and healing, modelled on a case by case basis”.

It said the scheme will be open to anyone who has been affected, with details of when it will be launched and how long it will run for still to be decided.

The workshop also heard “powerful and moving” first-hand accounts from current and former staff members who had been personally affected by bullying and inappropriate behaviour.

The board agreed action in six key areas, such as understanding what can be done about the harm caused, measuring progress and providing opportunities for people to speak out if something is wrong.

The final action plan will be published following a series of staff engagement meetings which is taking place across NHS Highland over the next three months.