QC to conduct probe into allegations of bullying at Highland health board

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman previously requested an independent review takes place to examine the allegations. Picture: TSPL
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman previously requested an independent review takes place to examine the allegations. Picture: TSPL
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An independent review into allegations of a bullying culture at a Scottish health board is to be conducted by a QC known for his work in mediation.

John Sturrock QC will lead the review into concerns at NHS Highland and report back to the Scottish Government early next year.

Senior clinicians at NHS Highland raised concerns in September over a “long-standing bullying culture” which they allege is damaging patient care - claims the board’s medical director Dr Rod Harvey said he did “not recognise”.

The four NHS Highland doctors went public with their fears in a letter to the Herald newspaper, accusing bosses of suppressing criticism and creating a “culture of fear and intimidation” lasting more than a decade.

Mr Harvey said the board takes such allegations “extremely seriously” and any complaints are fully investigated.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman previously requested an independent review takes place to examine the allegations.

• READ MORE: Report reveals ‘extremely murky goings-on’ at NHS Highland

Announcing Mr Sturrock’s appointment on Friday, the Scottish Government said it will give current and former staff members who have raised concerns the chance to discuss them with an impartial third party.

Mr Sturrock said: “These are difficult and sensitive issues. I know from my work as a mediator how important it is to listen to people’s concerns.

“My primary role, therefore, is to provide a safe and confidential place for people to be heard and to explore with them what the underlying issues might be.

“I hope that, by better understanding the circumstances, acknowledging the impact on individuals and services and learning lessons from the past, confidence and effective working relationships can be rebuilt.”

Meanwhile, NHS Scotland chief executive Paul Gray has written to the health board to offer an increased level of support to help it recover its financial position and implement agreed changes to governance.

NHS Highland has a projected deficit of £19.9 million for the current financial year.

Ms Freeman said: “I’m pleased that John Sturrock QC has agreed to conduct this independent review into allegations of a bullying culture at NHS Highland.

“These are serious allegations, and it is clearly important to me that we establish exactly what the underlying issues are so I can decide on any actions that might be necessary.”