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NHS Highland (Bullying)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 13th June 2019.

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Photo of Edward Mountain Edward Mountain Conservative

7. To ask the Scottish Government on what date it was first made aware of bullying in NHS Highland, and what action it took. (S5O-03388)

Photo of Jeane Freeman Jeane Freeman Scottish National Party

As Edward Mountain will know from the response that he received to the same question on 23 May, a search of all records available from 1 January 2011 showed that the earliest correspondence on file relating to NHS Highland that mentioned the term “bullying” was received on 16 March 2014. That correspondence was addressed to a trade union and copied to the Scottish Government for information only. The Scottish Government has proactively engaged with the individual concerned and continues to engage to this day.

Photo of Edward Mountain Edward Mountain Conservative

I understand that the board of NHS Highland knew about serious bullying allegations in 2010. As the cabinet secretary has pointed out, the Scottish Government knew about bullying in March 2014. If the issue had been dealt with properly then, there would not be the crisis that there is today. Does the cabinet secretary agree that a serious failure by the Government allowed the situation to develop as it has?

Photo of Jeane Freeman Jeane Freeman Scottish National Party

No, I do not agree with that. Despite Mr Mountain’s best efforts to suggest otherwise, we have handled the situation very well since the commissioning of the Sturrock report, which was prompted by allegations of a culture of bullying, not individual cases. We have handled the situation swiftly and well.

The independent report has been well received—I am sure to Mr Mountain’s chagrin—by staff and others in NHS Highland, and we continue to act on it. Indeed, a week today, I will visit NHS Highland in order to understand exactly how it is progressing its action plan. It behoves members—particularly those who claim to represent people in the Highlands—to get behind that report and give it their absolute support.

Photo of David Stewart David Stewart Labour

Has the cabinet secretary considered the Francis review, which looked into bullying in the national health service in England? Its recommendations included early support of whistleblowers, cultural change and the prevention of isolation and containment. Will the cabinet secretary incorporate those recommendations in NHS Highland and beyond?

Photo of Jeane Freeman Jeane Freeman Scottish National Party

As Mr Stewart knows from the statement that I made on the publication of the Sturrock review, I have made it clear that I understand well that some of the lessons in that report apply across our NHS. That is why one of the actions that I have taken has been to bring together a leadership group from across our regulation bodies, our royal colleges, our staff and trade union representatives and our boards to meet me over the summer to look at what more we need to do across our NHS to ensure that we have a positive working culture. That, of course, responds in many ways to the recommendations of the Francis review.