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NHS Highland moves to tackle bullying but it could take up to five years to fully implement recommendations made in the wake of widespread allegations

By Ian Duncan

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Fiona Hogg.
Fiona Hogg.

It could take up to five years to fully implement recommendations for change at NHS Highland made in the wake of widespread bullying allegations.

As we reported last week, two damning reports by the Independent Review Panel (IRP) set up to consider the experiences of current and former members of staff in the wake of the explosive allegations outlined a total of 26 recommendations for change.

Members of the health board discussed both reports and their recommendations on Tuesday at a virtual meeting as HR director Fiona Hogg, appointed after the bullying allegations first emerged, presented an update on how the issue was being addressed.

She said: “We recognise and accept the recommendations of the IRP and apologise to anyone who experienced bullying whilst working for us.”

The IRP’s recommendations, formed after speaking to 84 individuals, include a root and branch review of the health board’s HR function and the existing capabilities of all managers and clinical leaders, as a basis for putting in place effective personal development plans and training.

Ms Hogg said the IRP would need to sit for some time to go through all the approaches that had been made to it from current and former staff members in the light of the bullying allegations.

She added: “We will have to focus on the future while learning from the past.”

She described implementing the various recommendations as an “ongoing and substantial piece of work” that was expected to take up to five years though NHS Highland has also said that, of 22 recommendations made in the first IRP report, 14 are already in progress.

Among the first changes that will be seen is a new and more transparent way of reporting matters of concern to the board, due to be rolled out at the next scheduled board meeting, in May.

“That is really critical for us to understand what actions we need to take,” Ms Hogg said.

The IRP, which sits separately from the NHS board, heard about a “centralist and dictatorial” culture and “toxic” behaviour rife throughout the organisation, as was also previously set out in the Sturrock Report, produced following bullying revelations by whistle-blowers.

The panel’s remit extends only to considering experiences up to the end of 2019, but its report adds: “At the outset the members of the IRP need to record that we have heard testimony that bullying behaviour is still evident within NHS Highland particularly on the part of longer serving managerial/supervisory staff whose careers had progressed under the former leadership.”

Related article: Edward Mountain calls on NHS Highland to promote “caring and inspiring” leadership following two damning bullying reports

Related article: NHS Highland vows to deal with bullying after an independent panel alleges managers are still bullying staff 30 months after whistleblowers lifted the lid on the board's harassment crisis

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