Tories demand independent inquiry into NHS Highland bullying claims

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The Scottish Conservatives have called for an independent inquiry to investigate allegations of a “bullying culture” at a health board.

Senior clinicians at NHS Highland have raised concerns over a “long-standing bullying culture” which they allege is damaging patient care – claims the board’s medical director Dr Rod Harvey said he “did not recognise”.

The four NHS Highland doctors went public with their fears in a letter to the Herald newspaper, accusing bosses of suppressing criticism and creating a “culture of fear and intimidation” lasting more than a decade.

Mr Harvey said the board takes such allegations “extremely seriously” and any complaints are fully investigated.

Tory MSP Edward Mountain raised the issue at First Minister’s Questions as he urged Nicola Sturgeon to order an inquiry.

He said: “I wonder if the First Minister would agree with me that we need a full, independent inquiry into these serious allegations?

“As I can tell her, there is no confidence in an internal investigation by NHS Highland.”

The First Minister replied: “The Health Secretary spoke with the chair of NHS Highland, David Alston, this week and made crystal clear her expectation that this issue be addressed thoroughly.

“We understand that the chair hopes to meet the signatories to the letter to discuss their concerns as soon as possible and has also encouraged other staff to come forward if they have any concerns that they wish to report.

“Let me make absolutely clear the welfare of staff in our NHS is paramount, everything must be done to eradicate any bullying in the workplace.

“We’ve made clear to health boards that bullying and harassment is unacceptable and we expect them to ensure that any reported incidences are taken seriously and fully investigated.”

She said legislation is being introduced to set up an independent NHS Scotland whistle-blowing officer before the start of October 2019.

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