Health Secretary admits Government will bailout NHS Highland over bullying claims

The Health Secretary has finally admitted the Scottish Government will bailout NHS Highland to help the health authority deal with bullying and harassment cases.

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, David Stewart, lodged a Parliamentary Question asking what funding the Government had agreed to give NHS Highland for the “healing” process and the investigation of allegations of bullying and harassment of staff previously employed by the NHS board.

Ms Freeman replied: “The Scottish Government will provide NHS Highland with additional financial support to assist with the delivery of the healing process and discussions are ongoing regarding the level of financial support involved.”

Mr Stewart has been contacted by many former and current NHS Highland staff concerned about their treatment, but also concerned about the delay in getting a system set up to deal with their cases.

“It is positive that the Health Secretary has stepped in and I wait to see how much money is going to be transferred,” said Mr Stewart.

“I am hopeful this funding will provide compensation and also psychological support for the people who have contacted me and that the system will be independent.

“I know there are former employees who’ve lost or left their jobs and, in some cases, had their careers ruined and will be unable to go to an industrial tribunal due to a time-bar on cases and will be unable to afford a civil case. This move by the Government will hopefully prove the way forward.”

Mr Stewart explained that many former staff had been left in the dark about progress with setting up a system and had only read what was in the media after recent visits to Raigmore by Ms Freeman.

“There is still a gap in letting people know what’s happening, especially after such a delay and I’ve been told that for many this is affecting their health and wellbeing.”

The MSP has been told by the health authority that it recently has “very positive discussions” with the Scottish Government to help with the resources needed to ensure the process is able to cope with what is submitted, also to ensure it has the level of external and impartial input to create trust and confidence is in place.

Mr Stewart believes the system will be fully scoped, designed and a plan in place in the next few weeks with the scheme up and dealing with cases by mid-April.

Previously, in reply to a Parliamentary Question lodged in November last year, the Scottish Government said it had not been asked for funding by NHS Highland in order to set up a compensation scheme for former victims of bullying and harassment.

In December last year Mr Stewart said it was a blow that NHS Highland had announced that victims of the NHS Highland bullying and harassment scandal would have to seek compensation through the legal system.

The health authority said it had been decided that the healing process would “not extend to matters of financial loss or compensation”.

At the time Mr Stewart said: “In September, at the Scottish Parliament’s health and sport committee, NHS Highland’s Interim Chair, Professor Boyd Robertson, told me that compensation was being considered, but he could not give a definitive answer about how it would be tackled. That gave people some hope which has now been taken away.”

Mr Stewart added that he knew NHS Highland’s financial state meant that it could not afford a compensation scheme itself.

He also explained the Sturrock review had highlighted that maybe some form of independent review panel might be established for a limited period to bring closure for people who appeared to have suffered some financial loss because of alleged inappropriate handling of their situations and were in financial difficulty as a result.

In November last year Mr Stewart told Mr Freeman it was crucial ”that there was one point of contact for those who have come forward as a result of Sturrock claiming they have been bullied or harassed at NHS Highland.”

He said then: “It is very important that there is independent scrutiny of the scheme to ensure fairness to those who are already traumatised by what they experienced.

“Many people feel their voices are still not being heard after such a long time and I totally understand people’s frustration and anxiety over this.”

SCOTTISH PARLIAMENT

WRITTEN ANSWER

2 March 2020

Index Heading: Health and Social Care

David Stewart (Highlands and Islands) (Scottish Labour): To ask the Scottish Government what funding it has agreed to give NHS Highland for the “healing” process and investigation of allegations of bullying and harassment of staff previously employed by the NHS board.

 

S5W-27515 Jeane Freeman: The Scottish Government will provide NHS Highland with additional financial support to assist with the delivery of the healing process and discussions are ongoing regarding the level of financial support involved.