The allegations of bullying and harassment besieging NHS Highland are to be examined in a summit bringing together the leadership of NHS boards, staff and trades unions, royal colleges and professional and regulatory bodies.
This follows on from John Sturrock QC’s report on bullying in NHS Highland
Jeane Freeman, Health Secretary in the Scottish Government said:
“NHS Highland has many caring, supportive, diligent and highly-skilled staff. But this extensive review has identified a number of significant cultural issues that have contributed to actual and perceived behaviour in NHS Highland that does not reflect these values.
“That can neither be acceptable nor allowed to continue. So now we need to engage constructively with the findings, conclusions and recommendations of the review, reflecting that, as John Sturrock points out, there are also a number of staff whose personal experience of working in NHS Highland is not one of a bullying culture and who have equally legitimate concerns that need to be heard and taken account of.”
Local MSP David Stewart, Labour’s Health spokesperson commented that the Sturrock review shines a light on the possible causes of the pressures encountered by front line staff.
He highlights a section in the report on possible causes of bullying and harassment in the NHS and he accuses the Scottish Government of taking health service staff for granted for far too long.
“…over the past ten years in times of austerity, with budget restrictions and reduced spending, financial constraints can often lead to people feeling overwhelmed at work with too much to do and not enough time or resource. This is likely to cause stress and may lead to behaviour which is inappropriate. I have heard a number of examples of this, with senior and other employees at breaking point.” Sturrock Report
Acting on the Sturrock Report measures to be introduced by the Health Minister include :
• dedicated Whistleblowing Champions recruited to every health board by the end of 2019
• the introduction of legislation to allow the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman to take on the role of Independent National Whistleblowing Officer for NHS Scotland by summer 2020
• the Health Secretary writing to all NHS boards to ensure they reflect on and learn from the findings of the Sturrock Review
Jeane Freeman said:
“I now require the board and wider leadership of NHS Highland to carefully consider this report and actively engage with staff – at every level – to consider the conclusions and recommendations and how these can be positively applied.”
Local MSP Rhoda Grant, Labour also raised concerns in the Scottish Parliament that problems within NHS Highland, and throughout the Scottish health service, were fed by staff shortages and cuts putting enormous pressure on staff.
Rhoda Grant said:
“Our health service is in crisis and the SNP Government are in denial and have dragged their feet about tackling problems created by austerity. It’s time they took their heads out of the sand.”
The Sturrock Report begins with this question
“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing him or her self.” (adapted from words of Leo Tolstoy)
The report is easy to read and laid out in clear sections.
We often wish that things had not happened in our time. But we have to deal with what we have been given. If challenges seem impossible and overwhelming, all we can do is look to the present and the future. We each have the choice to do something, to make our contribution, however small. In that way, our sense of powerlessness can be converted into empowerment. Sturrock
People experience bullying within their homes, schools and workplaces. It can make life intolerable and its effects can be long lasting.
340 engaged with the evidence gathering of the report which is clear to point out the many positive aspects of NHS Highland and its dedicated workforce. For some, however, the culture was such that they were driven to despair and resignation.
Themes emerged for staff who feel they are not valued, not respected, not supported in carrying out very stressful work and not listened to regarding patient safety concerns, with decisions made behind closed doors. They feel sidelined, criticised, victimised, undermined and ostracised for raising matters of concern. Many described a culture of fear and of protecting the organisation when issues are raised.
This evaluation, unfortunately could be made of many workplaces. It is only through the persistence and bravery of whistleblowers at NHS Highland that the issues there have come to light.
For those who have been affected, how will NHSH move from fear to safety, from anger to compassion, from blame to kindness, from shame to dignity?
It can be done.
Jeane Freeman commented:
“Whatever else we may do, it is absolutely right that staff in NHS Highland are at the centre of that engagement and dialogue. That is the only way to secure the sustainable restoration of trust and shared purpose that is essential to a positive working culture.”
You can watch the statement in the Scottish Parliament here
Reporter: Fiona Grahame