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NHS Highland to individualise approach to employees who have complained of bullying

By Scott Maclennan

NHS Highland whistleblowers with the GMB's Gavin Smith and Dr Iain Kennedy (far right).
NHS Highland whistleblowers with the GMB's Gavin Smith and Dr Iain Kennedy (far right).

HEALTH Secretary Jeane Freeman has stepped in to ensure NHS Highland abides by the recommendations of the Sturrock Review into bullying to treat every victim as an individual.

On a visit to Inverness yesterday, Ms Freeman confirmed that the board would offer “individualised” packages of support – effectively reversing the board’s previous policy that called for anyone who believed themselves to be a victim of bullying to seek compensation through the courts or tribunals system.

Ms Freeman said: “The whistle-blowers and I agree, and the board agrees, that what Sturrock is looking for is individuals to be treated as individuals, so the package of support that helps them should be individualised to their own needs.

“That could include psychological therapies and support, it could include help to return to work with NHS Highland or somewhere else, and it may include some financial element to it.”

She also said the internal NHS Scotland “settlement process” would be employed “so we don’t force people to go through a formal route in order to have some element of financial redress.”

Speaking on behalf of the bullying whistle-blowers who met the health secretary during her visit north yesterday, Dr Iain Kennedy said: “It is clear that Jeane Freeman has instructed NHS Highland that we must now get moving towards a process that can achieve financial settlement for victims who have suffered loss, and also provide psychological support.

“We are very pleased that the board has agreed to work with victims in a form of co-production to produce a process that is very individualised. There is even the prospect of some people who lost their jobs returning to work, which is very positive.”

Asked whether this was the death knell for the deeply unpopular policy that instructed bullying victims to take the health board to court or tribunal Dr Kennedy said: “Absolutely. We made it clear to Jeane Freeman that victims have been re-traumatised by what they heard, they were led to believe they would have to lawyer-up – that is completely out the window.”

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