More than two thirds of staff responding to a health board’s survey said they have been bullied and harassed at work.
Almost 450 NHS staff at Argyll and Bute Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP), as well as 62 former colleagues, took part in a study, with 68% revealing they have experienced the “distressing” behaviour.
The survey was carried out as part of a response to a report, published by John Sturrock QC in May 2019, which concluded there was a “bullying culture” at NHS Highland.
The results have been described as “deeply concerning” by Professor Boyd Robertson, chairman of NHS Highland, who said: “We sincerely apologise to any colleague who has experienced bullying or harassment and are determined to make the changes necessary.”
He added: “We have immediately put in place an action plan for Argyll and Bute which integrates into our wider culture improvement programme and will be delivered in partnership with colleagues and independent agencies.”
The health board has set up an independent helpline to allow colleagues to discuss concerns as part of a 100-day action plan for Argyll and Bute HSCP, which includes an independent review of disciplinary, grievance, bullying and harassment procedures.
Joanna Macdonald, chief officer of the HSCP, said: “It is distressing to see that a significant number of our colleagues have experienced bullying and harassment and addressing the implications of this report will be a high priority.”
The survey was undertaken over a six-week period between February and April.
It was developed in partnership with trade union representatives and aimed at current and former employees.
Linda Kirkland, chair of pressure group No More Victims, said the survey acted as proof that “lessons have not been learned by NHS Highland” following the Sturrock report.
“Clearly the cultural issues have not changed,” she said. “Old behaviours of bullying and threat are now evidenced yet again.
“We and the whistleblowers in NHS Highland have been continuously saying that bullying is happening on a daily basis in the organisation.
“We all know that bullied staff will not be able to carry out optimal clinical care so patients will have been, and will continue to be, affected.”