Two firms to probe claims of bullying by NHS bosses

TWO outside organisations are to be brought in to probe bullying among NHS Lothian management in the wake of the waiting times scandal.

Board chairman Charles Winstanley is expected to give details next week, following approval by Health Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

Dr Winstanley was ordered to carry out the investigation into “inappropriate and oppressive management styles” at the health board after auditors from PricewaterhouseCoopers uncovered large-scale manipulation of waiting list figures.Staff had suspended up to 5000 patients from the waiting list in order to hit targets for the number of people treated within 18 weeks of referral. Auditors found that staff were fiddling figures because they felt pressured by senior managers not to deliver bad news on waiting times.

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Dr Winstanley said he thought it would be more appropriate for the investigation to be carried out by outside bodies. He said: “There will be two independent professional organisations which will be working together. They will be accountable to a small steering group led by me, but the steering group will not be doing the investigation itself, it will simply be receiving the independent assessment.”

The results of the probe are due to be presented to Ms Sturgeon by the end of April.

As it gets under way, some NHS Lothian staff have described a “culture of fear” in their workplaces. One, who wrote to Lothian MSP David McLetchie, said they were too afraid to give their name but wrote: “Executives bullied senior managers and senior managers bullied managers. Managers bullied supervisors and supervisors bullied clerical workers. Being bullied is no excuse for bullying someone else.”

So far, two members of staff have been suspended as investigations continue, and Dr Winstanley has said he expects more to follow.

Mr McLetchie said: “Whilst I await the full detail of the investigation, I would give this news a cautious welcome. It took a fully independent investigation to uncover this problem with management culture and it will take a further independent assessment to determine the true scale and those responsible.”