National Health Service (Bullying)

Question Time — Scottish Executive — Health and Wellbeing – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:15 pm on 4th December 2008.

Alert me about debates like this

. Bill Wilson (West of Scotland) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Government whether it has estimated or will estimate how bullying impacts on the NHS and in other areas, in light of an increasing body of evidence linking bullying to mental and physical health problems. (S3O-5128)

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

In response to the results of the 2006 NHS Scotland staff survey, the health directorates commissioned a project to examine dignity at work in NHS Scotland. That project commenced in August. In particular, it seeks to measure the impact of bullying and harassment in NHS Scotland and to develop tools and cultural improvements that will reduce the impact of such behaviour on all staff in the NHS.

Photo of Bill Wilson Bill Wilson Scottish National Party

Respectme's comments about Renfrewshire Council's anti-bullying strategy are:

"the guidance is head and shoulders above other local authority guidance that has been reviewed to date".

Given that, will the Scottish Government assure me that it is doing what it can to ensure that anti-bullying best practice is shared?

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

I note Bill Wilson's comments about Renfrewshire Council's policy, which I welcome. I assure him that the NHS in Scotland will always seek to learn from best practice, whether through NHS boards learning from each other or through learning from other agencies. I am sure that, as we develop the work in the NHS on dignity at work, with the emphasis on tackling bullying and harassment, we will bear in mind such examples.

Members might be interested to know that the study to which I referred in my first answer will take between 12 and 18 months to complete. Members know that the NHS Scotland staff survey is conducted every two years. The previous survey was undertaken in 2006 and the results of the 2008 survey should be available in January.

Photo of Mary Scanlon Mary Scanlon Conservative

I acknowledge the cabinet secretary's comments, but I remind her that while we await the welcome project that she described, many highly trained and experienced NHS employees will be suspended or on gardening leave, which has an almost immeasurable effect on an individual's health. Many such people are unlikely to return to work. After the survey's results are produced, I ask not only for those people to be treated with dignity, but for human resources departments in the NHS to be more professional and to conduct their business with more dignity than at present.

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

I expect all HR departments in NHS boards to behave with dignity. If Mary Scanlon has cases that she wants to bring to my attention, I am more than happy to discuss them with her.

I agree absolutely with Mary Scanlon and Bill Wilson about the importance of the issue. I mentioned the 2006 staff survey, which showed that 18 per cent of staff considered that they had been the subject of bullying behaviour and that 19 per cent said that they had suffered harassment. That gives us some idea of the scale of the issue. It is essential to do work properly to identify the tools and the culture changes that we need to deliver to tackle bullying more effectively.

I value every member of staff in the NHS. It is important that their work is valued and that they are provided with a working environment in which they can give of their best.