MSP to ask for meeting with NHS Highland to untangle bullying and harassment cases

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP David Stewart will be asking for a meeting with the Chief Executive of NHS Highland to untangle exactly how the health authority plans to deal with historical bullying and harassment cases.

The MSP is surprised the board did not ask for extra Scottish Government funding to cope with the number of former employees seeking compensation for the way they were treated while working for NHS Highland.

Mr Stewart, who is also Labour’s Shadow Public Health Minister, put down a Parliamentary Question on November 26, which has now been answered by Health Secretary Jeane Freeman.

She has told him that NHS Highland had not requested funding to set up a compensation scheme but had “approved the principles underpinning the launch of a healing process for current and former staff”.

“What I cannot understand is that in September, at the Scottish Parliament’s health and sport committee, NHS Highland’s then Interim Chair, Professor Boyd Robertson, told me that compensation was being considered,” said Mr Stewart.

“We all know that the health authority is strapped for cash so one wonders how it could consider this option without knowing there was another funding stream available?”

Mr Stewart says the issue is made more opaque as Ms Freeman expects NHS Highland to consider all complaints by current employees, as well as former employees who have lost their job or felt compelled to leave their employment.

Ms Freeman has also made clear that this must be done on a case by case basis, taking into account each individual’s needs – as recommended in the Sturrock report. While NHS Highland has confirmed it will review any such claims “fairly and act on professional advice – including settlement, alternative dispute resolution and/or proceeding to a formal hearing to determine the outcome.”

Mr Stewart continued: “So it appears on one hand NHS Highland says it will look at claims for settlement, but publicly it has said those seeking compensation will have to look at legal options such as employment tribunals or civil cases.

“Confused? Yes, victims are and let’s not forget it’s been a year since this was raised publicly.”

Mr Stewart has stressed that many of the constituents who have contacted him want an independent panel to look at cases. Some are not looking for compensation but just to have their voices heard and may need further counselling.

SCOTTISH PARLIAMENT

WRITTEN ANSWER

18 December 2019 (Holding Reply Issued 11 December 2019)

Index Heading: Health and Social Care

David Stewart (Highlands and Islands) (Scottish Labour): To ask the Scottish Government whether NHS Highland has requested funding to set up a compensation scheme for former victims of bullying and harassment.

S5W-26537

Jeane Freeman: No. NHS Highland has, however, advised the Scottish Government that it approved the principles underpinning the launch of a healing process for current and former staff.

The Health Secretary has been very clear that she expects NHS Highland to consider all complaints by current employees, as well as former employees who have lost their job or felt compelled to leave their employment. Ms Freeman has also been clear that this must be done on a case by case basis, taking into account each individual’s needs – as recommended in the Sturrock report.

NHS Highland has confirmed it will review any such claims fairly and act on professional advice – including settlement, alternative dispute resolution and/or proceeding to a formal hearing to determine the outcome.

The Health Secretary is monitoring the application of these commitments closely to ensure her expectations are met. She also intends to spend time with the board and staff again in the new year and hopes to meet again with the whistleblowers group.