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More than £3.4 million to be paid to staff following bullying claims

Independent review found harmful bullying culture at Scottish health board, including among nursing staff

Independent review found harmful bullying culture at Scottish health board, including among nursing staff

Picture: iStock

Nurses at a Scottish health board where the majority of staff reported bullying are receiving union support as their employer prepares to pay out huge sums in compensation.

NHS Highland is expected to pay more than £3.4 million to staff affected by what a group of whistleblowing senior medics described as ‘a long-standing bullying culture’.

Independent review finds ‘significant, harmful and multi-layered’ bullying

Their claims led to an independent review by John Sturrock QC in 2019. It heard from 340 current and former staff – including nurses – of whom 66% described bullying that was often ‘significant, harmful and multi-layered’.

    Independent review found harmful bullying culture at Scottish health board, including among nursing staff

    Picture: iStock

    Nurses at a Scottish health board where the majority of staff reported bullying are receiving union support as their employer prepares to pay out huge sums in compensation.

    NHS Highland is expected to pay more than £3.4 million to staff affected by what a group of whistleblowing senior medics described as ‘a long-standing bullying culture’.

    Independent review finds ‘significant, harmful and multi-layered’ bullying

    Their claims led to an independent review by John Sturrock QC in 2019. It heard from 340 current and former staff – including nurses – of whom 66% described bullying that was often ‘significant, harmful and multi-layered’.

    NHS Highland set up a ‘healing process’ in response to the review. It reported this week that the health board has paid out £2.063 million to 150 people so far – and the sum is expected to reach £3.41 million.

    It has not been confirmed if nurses are among those likely to receive a payout.

    Significant work is still needed to regain trust

    Norman Provan

    RCN Scotland associate director (employment relations) Norman Provan said: ‘We will continue to support members at NHS Highland throughout this process to help build a culture of dignity and respect within the board. This settlement total highlights the scale of bullying and harassment endured by staff and the need to learn lessons.’

    He said that while the board had made important initial steps, it had significant work to do in regaining the trust of the workforce, including having open and honest conversations with staff about progress being made to improve the culture.

    The report by the board’s people and culture director Fiona Hogg details 293 active participants in the process; 177 cases have been completed and 107 are still to go before the independent review panel.

    The chief executive has made 85 written apologies.

    ‘Everyone deserves to feel safe and respected at work’

    An NHS Highland spokesperson said: ‘Everyone deserves to feel safe and respected at work.

    ‘NHS Highland is fully committed to learning from the healing process to make sure we do all we can to be a great place to work.’

    What staff told the independent review

    The allegations reported via the Sturrock Review included claims of intimidation made by and about nurses, as well as other staff. These included:

    • A bank auxiliary nurse described being consistently ‘belittled’ by ward nurses and spoken to in a ‘brusque and patronising manner’, and felt it was driven by a ‘hierarchical mindset’
    • A nurse described a group, including charge nurses, who would talk behind their back, be unkind and question them in front of patients
    • A lack of support for clinical nurse specialists who were given too much responsibility meant even senior nurses did not want to do the role
    • Allegations made by two nurses against a senior nurse, who later retired due to their own traumatic experiences

    Further information


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