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Bullying victims call for NHS Highland board resignations over alleged inaction


By Scott Maclennan


Anti-bullying demonstrators turned up to voice their concerns at today's NHS Highland board meeting.
Anti-bullying demonstrators turned up to voice their concerns at today's NHS Highland board meeting.

Victims of bullying and union reps have staged a demonstration at an NHS Highland board meeting this morning, calling for greater accountability on the issue.

Among the protesters were former NHS Highland staff and board members – some of whom are going public for the first time.

The group attended the meeting to hear an update by the board on its efforts to tackle the issue of bullying which, according to the GMB union, has continued unabated despite the Sturrock report published in May.

After the item concentrating on the programme to improve the health board’s working practices the demonstrators left the meeting.

Anti-bullying demonstrators who turned up to voice their concerns at today's NHS Highland board meeting.
Anti-bullying demonstrators who turned up to voice their concerns at today's NHS Highland board meeting.

After the meeting former board member Myra Duncan, who claims to have been bullied to the point of resignation, called on those who were on the board when bullying took place to resign.

Accusing them of failures and denial she said accountability “has been seriously lacking.”

She said: “I was a non-executive director of NHS Highland for over five years, during which I chaired several board committees.

"I resigned in May 2017 because of my concerns about board governance, the inability of the board to hold executives to account, poor decision making and the way the board was operating.

“I had been raising these concerns since 2015 and because of this I was subjected to ongoing poor behaviour by some board members – and particularly by two senior board members.

“My experience and knowledge was questioned, I was undermined and humiliated around the board table. I tried to address this through the NHS Highland process, but the outcome was unsatisfactory to me.”

Despite setting out her concerns in her resignation letter to then health secretary Shona Robison she said: “To this day I do not know whether or how they were investigated.”

She added: “When the whistle-blowers spoke out six former non-executive directors wrote to Jeane Freeman, the cabinet secretary, in November 2018, supporting their call for an inquiry because of our concerns about the governance of the organisation and the way the board was operating.

“The cabinet secretary invited us to meet with her after John Sturrock had reported. However, she cancelled the meeting at short notice and has since declined our repeated requests to reschedule it.

“There have been two reviews of governance – in 2015 and 2017/18 – and ongoing governance support. Yet still the Auditor General, in her latest report, expresses her concerns over the governance and culture at NHS Highland and says that, given the board’s past record in addressing problems, she has concerns about the board’s capacity to bring about the necessary change.

“Many of the members of the current board were in situ when the bullying was going on. They failed to act in 2017 after three non-executives resigned and in 2018, when the whistle-blowers spoke up, they signed a statement of denial.

“There have been no personal apologies, nor acknowledgements that they have failed, and no integrity. How can they offer restitution and healing? They have no moral right to govern.

“There has to be accountability. This has been seriously lacking. Those board members need to step down or be removed. As a victim I have to see accountability to heal.”



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