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NHS Highland bullying victims told they will have to take legal action to get compensation

By Scott Maclennan

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Victims of alleged bullying at NHS Highland stage a protest at Assynt House..Myra Duncan (centre) reads out a statement to the press.
Victims of alleged bullying at NHS Highland stage a protest at Assynt House..Myra Duncan (centre) reads out a statement to the press.

NHS Highland has announced bullying victims seeking compensation will have to take the board to court or go through an employment tribunal.

The surprise development was revealed by HR director Fiona Hogg during a presentation at today's board meeting on its "healing" programme.

Bullying victims who gathered at the meeting to voice their concerns about a perceived lack of progress said they were hugely disappointed by the move.

They were also furious that the report by Mrs Hogg did not contain a single mention of “bullying”.

Former NHS Highland head of facilities Douglas Seago was among those who attended today's meeting.

Afterwards he said: "I was extremely disappointed that the health board’s response to healing is to expect people who have been in an extremely adversarial situation to pick off all the scabs which have been healing over time to go back into an adversarial situation through tribunals and civil courts to get any kind of compensation.

"I respect the board’s requirements to have responsibility to its financial situation, but I am sure there could have been a more imaginative way to come to a conclusion for those who have been harmed both emotionally and financially by the bullying actions."

Mrs Hogg said: "The way we would like to resolve issues arising through employmentis while people are still in employment.

"The tribunal service is a back-up where we have not been able to resolve those issues and for some of these individuals the employment tribunal is a process by which they can then access that. "

Scottish Labour's public health spokesman and Highlands and Islands MSP David Stewart said: “This is a huge blow for the many people who have contacted me with very distressing details about how they were treated by the health authority.

“There are former employees who’ve lost or left their jobs and, in some cases, had their careers ruined and most, if not all, will be unable to go to an industrial tribunal due to a time-bar on cases, and will be unable to afford a civil case.

“In September, at the parliament’s health and sport committee, interim chair Professor Boyd Robertson told me that compensation was being considered, but he could not give a definitive answer about how it would be tackled. That gave people some hope which has now been taken away.”

Mr Stewart is to lodge a parliamentary question asking the Scottish Government if NHS Highland had asked it for more funding for compensation.

He is also seeking more detail about the health authority’s “healing” process.

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