Watchdog warns of bullying culture within health boards

Harassment and bullying by members of Scotland’s health boards is more widespread than in other public organisations, the Standards Commission has found.

Almost a quarter of health board members say they have experienced disrespectful conduct
Almost a quarter of health board members say they have experienced disrespectful conduct

Almost a quarter of health board members say they have experienced “disrespectful conduct”, according to a survey.

Poor conduct is also unlikely to be reported, with 43 per cent of respondents saying they would be reluctant to make a complaint about fellow board members.

There is disparity between men and women, with just 25 per cent of female board members “not at all reluctant” to complain, compared to 41 per cent of male members.

Standards Commission convener Kevin Dunion said: “We would expect that devolved public bodies which operate in a less adversarial political context than local authorities would generate far fewer complaints regarding conduct of members.


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“Nevertheless, it is important to check whether the lack of complaints is due to exemplary conduct or whether members feel inhibited about complaining, where possible breaches occur.

“It is a matter of concern that a minority of members report having experienced or witnessed conduct that could be described as bullying, harassment or being dismissive.

“In such instances they should feel able to make a complaint if the matter is not addressed at source.”

The research was carried out amid concerns that complaints involving members of devolved public bodies were so low compared with councillors. Tthe Commission surveyed Chairs and Members to discover whether the lack of complaints was the result of a high level of adherence to the Codes of Conduct or whether instances of poor conduct were simply going unreported.


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The findings, published by the Standards Commission for Scotland, come from 299 responses.

Mr Dunion added: “The survey shows that overall almost half of the respondents would be reluctant to submit a formal complaint.

“Their reasons range from impact upon relationships, concern that nothing would be done or the difficulty of challenging the chair. In any case, about a quarter of members are not clear about how to make a complaint about a breach of the code.”

The Standards Commission will share its findings with the Scottish Government and said it will consider whether bullying and harassment provision should be included in future codes of conduct.