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Victims of NHS Highland bullying question the programme designed to deliver compensation amid issues such as long waits for payments

By Scott Maclennan

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Pauline Thomson is one of those critical about the healing process.
Pauline Thomson is one of those critical about the healing process.

The process devised to offer justice to victims of NHS Highland bullying has left one woman feeling “angrier” than ever as more questions arise about how victims are being treated.

After launching in May last year, at least 154 people have registered to access psychological support and compensation through the so-called Healing Process which aims to offer some restitution and compensation to staff who endured bullying.

The psychological help offered to victims has been heavily praised but in recent months complaints have emerged that not only are financial settlements being heavily taxed they are also long waits for them.

Pauline Thomson, who previously won an employment tribunal while defending herself, said the experience left her furious after she experienced an eight-week wait after concluding the process.

“I am actually angrier now than when I started the Healing Process,” she said. “Again I feel that NHS Highland have taken advantage of me and the situation to attempt to exert control over myself and others.

“Eight weeks after concluding my involvement in the Healing Process, I was still waiting to find out what the outcome was, whether anyone would be disciplined for bullying me and whether there would be any form of compensation.

“At the eight-week mark I sent a subject access request to NHS Highland to get hold of this information. Now both the head of HR and the chief executive have come back to me saying I can’t have it.

“A subject access request works basically like a freedom of information request and they have no right to refuse one, that means I could and perhaps will take this up with the information commissioner.

“I really am furious. The fact is the Healing Process is not at all healing and once again NHS Highland are responsible for causing victims of bullying unnecessary worry and upset and frustration. This will not go unanswered.”

But NHS Highland chief executive Pamela Dudek said the problem was that the board could not access the required information because it is held anonymously to protect the identity of victims and the Healing Process functions as an independent entity.

She said: “Unfortunately, we are unable to process this request as the information received in NHS Highland in relation to the Healing Process is on a no-names basis. However, in line with the agreed process [Ms Thomson] will receive a copy of the outcomes and recommendations in due course.

“The other documents referred to within the request are only the documents that [Ms Thomson] submitted to the data room. This can only be accessed by [Ms Thomson] and the panel members, this is not held by NHS Highland.”

The Healing Process website shed light on the length of the process saying it could last anything from 19 to 32 weeks while also admitting that there have been some delays.

Fiona Hogg, director of human resources at the health board said: "The Healing Process has been set up to support those impacted by their past experiences at NHS Highland and to aid them in finding healing.

"We are saddened if some participants are unhappy at their outcome of the process in their own particular case, although we have also had feedback that many people have found the different elements of the process helpful, including the access to psychological therapies and apologies.

"NHS Highland is receiving assurance through the remuneration committee that the Independent Review panel are discharging their role effectively and in line with the detailed guidance that was agreed through the co-production process.

"Those who participated in the earliest panels had a longer wait for their outcome than those who are now going through the process, but this was clearly communicated.This was to ensure that the panel had the chance to hear a number of cases and ensure they were comfortable with their recommendations, prior to submitting them to the remuneration committee for approval.

"This is a completely unique process and each stage had to be tested and set up, when going through it for the first time, for the panel and for NHS Highland in processing the outcomes.We are now working within the timelines set out.

"NHS Highland received only limited information from the panel on each case and all of that has been made available to participants.

"The independence of the process and the panel and the confidentiality of participants are at the heart of the design and operation of the people processes."

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