9 May 2019
I thank the cabinet secretary for advance sight of her statement and acknowledge her initiative in asking John Sturrock QC to review the claims of bullying in NHS Highland.
NHS Highland is my home board.
I have dealt with the board for more than 20 years and in two Parliaments. I have dealt with everyone from chief executives and board members to cleaners and patients.
However, no amount of experience could have prepared me for the GMB-organised event in autumn last year.
More than 60 people attended, and they spoke with one voice on the toxic culture of bullying in the organisation.
What new system can be put in place for all those who lost jobs, left jobs and suffered mental health problems, whose experience we must never forget?
What assessment has the cabinet secretary made of the effect of the bullying on NHS Highland’s credibility and ability to recruit and retain staff?
Let us look to the future and the implementation of the review recommendations, so that staff in NHS Highland and beyond can start afresh in safety and security as respected, dedicated professionals, free from the dark cloud of bullying.
I am grateful to Mr Stewart for his comments and questions.
I absolutely recognise his long history of positive engagement and strong interest in these matters.
I completely understand how unprepared he would have been for the meeting that the GMB convened.
The Scottish Government and Mr Sturrock were also unprepared, hence the lengthening of the time that the review has taken to allow for the number of people who wanted to give evidence to Mr Sturrock about their personal experience.
Mr Sturrock’s review makes the point about providing support for those who have experienced bullying or harassment, and whose emotional or mental health has suffered as a consequence.
The board is actively considering how it might do that and will actively consider what other steps it needs to take.
As well as reflecting the evidence and the views that were expressed to him, a central thrust of John Sturrock’s report was to recognise that the only way to move forward is to heal first, and to heal by moving forward.
He is clear about that in his report and NHS Highland absolutely understands that; it is quoted today as saying that it must embrace all the recommendations of the report and act.
It has begun that work, as well as work to consider how it will engage directly with staff.
I was keen that this be a report not just for the chamber but for NHS Highland.
It therefore needs to engage with its staff to understand whether they want more than is in the report.
It is impossible to have a scientific view on the impact of the review on recruitment and retention.
However, concern about that was raised by those who had not themselves experienced bullying and harassment, and we need to consider what we do about that, too.