MSP David Stewart is urging NHS Highland to find a speedy solution for a system of compensating and supporting staff who have been bullied and harassed after questioning its senior officials in parliament today.
Mr Stewart, at Holyrood’s health and sport committee, raised the issue of psychological support and compensation for those who have previously suffered, many of whom have privately shared their stories with the MSP and at that special meeting in Eden Court, Inverness, last year.
The committee’s questioning is one of a series, bringing health authorities across Scotland before MSPs. NHS Highland is in the hot seat following the much publicised Sturrock report into bullying and harassment.
Highlands and Islands MSP Mr Stewart, who is also Scottish Labour’s shadow minister for public health, told the senior management team, which included the authority’s Chief Executive, Iain Stewart, and Chairman Boyd Robertson:
“My mailbag has been really full with cases of those who have approached me saying their careers have been ruined and they have lost out financially.
“Is there any scheme of compensation that the board is looking to try and help these staff who have really seen their careers blighted in many ways and are unable to work?
“Obviously, for confidentiality reasons, I cannot quote these cases today on their request, but I have had numerous cases directly about this and I am obviously highly concerned about the effect it has had on their career and the bulk of them stay in the health board area.”
Mr Robertson said he and the Chief Executive were aware of these cases, and had met a number of them, and one of the areas being looked at was compensation.
However, Mr Robertson added: “We are not yet at the stage where we can give a definitive answer as to how we are going to deal with that.”
Following the committee meeting the MSP said: “While I welcome the fact that the health authority is turning its attention to this very important issue, time is dragging on and I think there needs be a definitive answer sooner rather than later.
“I will be taking a close look at how this develops for the people who have contacted me and feel very aggrieved about how they were treated..
“I have always argued that there seemed to be an underlying toxic culture of bullying previously at NHS Highland and believe that the new Chief Executive and Chairman are trying to turn this around.”
The MSP also questioned NHS Highland about the resignation of the authority’s previous whistle-blowing champion after a few months in the post.
NHS Highland Chief Executive said he didn’t believe it was due to the previous toxic culture in the board and a new whistle blowing champion, Jean Boardman, had since filled the post.
“I have been given no information of why she resigned from the post I’m afraid,” said the Chief Executive.
The MSP also asked about attracting staff to come and work in NHS Highland – he raised the background of the expense of locums and the difficulty of the retention of staff.
The Chief Executive said it was now strengthening its HR processes and had new senior officials in post and he wanted NHS Highland to be the “absolute place of choice” for people to come and work.