MSP David Stewart calls for Healing Process remuneration committee to be more independent

Highlands and Islands MSP David Stewart has asked NHS Highland and the Scottish Government to rethink how the Healing Process remuneration committee has been set up in the light of concerns from those who have been bullied.

Mr Stewart, who is also Scottish Labour’s Shadow Public Health Minister, has been contacted by members of the T-Party group, formed before the Coronavirus hit, to help victims of NHS Highland bullying and harassment get together for support over a cup of tea and a chat.

The group, which has members throughout the Highlands, has continued to keep in touch with each other and with Mr Stewart virtually and by email.

The Healing Process allows current and former staff of the health authority to talk to an independent panel about their experiences of being bullied or harassed. This follows whistleblowers, union representatives and Mr Stewart calling for action on a culture of bullying at NHS Highland, a review carried out by QC John Sturrock and intervention by the Scottish Government.

T-Party members say the NHS Highland Remuneration Committee which will discuss compensation for some of those involved in the Healing Process, is not independent enough and could have members, or those sitting in on the meetings, who have been involved in individual cases of staff or former staff.

“I can see exactly where members of this group are coming from,” said Mr Stewart.

“An analogy might be an Employment Tribunal where someone on the panel has prior knowledge of a case. With the best will in the world that person cannot be impartial no matter their best intentions.

“I have seen how affected many of the members of this group have been by bullying and harassment and how it has taken courage for them to step forward and relive their experiences. They are not being awkward – there are real concerns from those who have been damaged by their experiences.

“Looking at the sensitives here, I feel it would be best for NHS Highland and the Scottish Government to have a rethink, especially as John Sturrock highlighted in his report that

‘the preservation of independence and perceived impartiality is crucial in any mediation provision’.”

Mr Stewart has written to Paul Hawkins, the Interim NHS Highland Chief Executive, and to Health Secretary, Jeane Freeman, asking for them to look into the issue. Mr Stewart is also aware that the new Chief Executive, Pam Dudek, will soon be taking over and may wish to get involved in the T-Party’s concerns.

One other issue being raised by the MSP is that people would like to have the choice of nominating their own lawyer to receive information from independent review panel, to preserve their identities from other staff working for NHS Highland.