The leader of the BMA in Scotland has unequivocally condemned bullying in the health service following a devastating report into events at a Scottish health board.
A review found that staff at NHS Highland said they suffered fear, intimidation and inappropriate behaviour in the workplace; many had resigned or moved to other jobs as a direct result, and staff felt they were not valued.
Some were afraid to raise concerns, and some who did felt they were victimised for doing so.
BMA Scotland council chair Lewis Morrison said the report must act as a wake-up call.
‘In any industry, bullying like this would be troubling, but in a service where those bullied are making life and death decisions, and caring for those at a time of crisis, it is completely unacceptable.
‘It reflects the concerns highlighted by doctors who first raised the issue publicly last year – after pursuing it within the organisation for some time. We should be in no doubt that highlighting these concerns was a brave and difficult thing to do.’
Free to complain
Dr Morrison (pictured below) said that NHS staff across Scotland must feel able to speak out when they encounter bullying, or indeed any issue they believe may adversely affect patient care or anyone’s wellbeing, without fear of effect on their careers.
‘This report absolutely has to be a catalyst for change – first and foremost under the new leadership at NHS Highland, but clearly there are also lessons for the whole of Scotland.
‘While there are aspects that are specific to NHS Highland, we are pleased that the Scottish Government recognises this is not an isolated situation. Even this week we have seen concerns raised in NHS Ayrshire and Arran and our survey of doctors found that four in 10 say bullying is an issue in their workplace,’ he said.
Health secretary Jeane Freeman said that there was no place for bullying in the health service and called on NHS Highland to take the report’s findings on board.
She announced measures including a short-life working group to consider how to promote positive workforce practice across the NHS, and steps to further protect whistleblowers.
Dr Morrison welcomed these moves and said the BMA was prepared to play a full part.
‘NHS Highland and all NHS boards need to act swiftly and appropriately to deliver improvements that make working in Scotland’s NHS a more positive experience for all staff. There are equally important recommendations for the Scottish Government to respond to quickly and effectively.
‘On our part, these findings will now be fed into our work on bullying and harassment, and proposals to develop a more positive workplace culture in NHS Scotland.
‘We have already set out a comprehensive programme of work that makes clear the priority we place on this. This report only serves to underline the importance and urgency of that work.
‘It is very easy to consider these issues in a matter-of-fact way, but we must never forget that at the heart of this are individuals who have suffered harm as result of the behaviours this report details. The priority now has to be to ensure these people get the timely support they need.’