NHS Highland bullying payouts: Health board could pay £3.4m after complaints over culture

NHS Highland could payout as much as £3.4m to those who have complained about a bullying culture, it has been reported.

150 cases have already been settled, costing around £2m so far, with further payments expected.

The cost was revealed in a report to a meeting of NHS Highland's board earlier this week.

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In the report, NHS Highland said of the payments: “Up to 9 August 2021, 177 Independent Review Panel outcomes have been approved by the NHS Highland Remuneration Committee, which includes 150 recommendations for financial payment and 27 with no payment requested or recommended.

NHS Highland expects to pay out £3.4m to those with bullying complaints.

"All panel recommendations have been accepted to date.

"Those 150 financial payment recommendations total £2.063m.”

The report added: “Based on the payments to date and cases remaining, our current modelling suggests the total cost of the payments would be in the region of £3.415m.”

Reports have highlighted claims of bullying at the highest level of the organisation.

It comes after an independent review panel reported that claims of bullying, stress, and inappropriate behaviour was widespread.

The report, issued in March 2021, stated that the culture “often manifested itself in inappropriate behaviour.

"This inappropriate behaviour was exhibited at the level of the senior leadership of the organisation but was then replicated at other levels.

"Poor behaviour was tolerated. As a result, individual members of staff often felt isolated and exposed.

"Members of staff who felt under considerable pressure, bullied others to achieve results and ultimately this resulted in serious harm to the wellbeing of colleagues.

"We heard of examples of inappropriate language in meetings and other interactions. This even on occasion included the non-executive directors of NHSH Board.

"There was a fear of raising complaints – doing so was perceived to be career limiting.”

The panel also reported: “We heard that serious issues were not dealt with timeously or effectively and that the established HR policies tended to be used to reinforce the bullying culture.”

A review was also undertaken in 2019 by John Sturrock QC into the allegations.

The review found that 340 people made contact, with 282 respondents making submissions in face-to-face meetings and in written form.

“The majority (66%) of those responding to this review wished to report experiences of what they described as bullying, in many instances significant, harmful and multi-layered, and in various parts, at all staffing levels, and in many geographic areas, disciplines and departments of NHSH.”

The report added: “A significant majority of those with whom the review engaged have, over a number of years suffered, or are currently suffering, fear, intimidation and inappropriate behaviour at work.”

It also condemned the leadership of NHS Highland, saying: “The senior leadership of NHSH has seemed to many, though not all, to have been characterised over some years by what has been described as an autocratic, intimidating, closed, suppressing, defensive and centralising style, where challenge was not welcome and people felt unsupported.”

A spokesperson for NHS Highland said: "NHS Highland is fully committed to learning from the Healing Process to make sure we do all we can to be a great place to work.

"The Independent Review Panel makes recommendations for action based on what they feel will aid healing, having listened to participants, and NHS Highland has supported all of their recommendations for psychological therapies, apologies and financial payments, as well as the organisational learnings.”

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