GPs who exposed years of bullying by senior staff within NHS Highland are celebrating a significant milestone in their long campaign for justice.
The health board has outlined compensation and support packages for victims, many of whom quit the profession in disgust at what had been going on for more than a decade.
Eighteen months on from whistleblowers taking on the NHS Highland board, which failed to acknowledge deep-rooted problems, it has been agreed that an independent panel will assess individual claims.
It will make recommendations that could include an apology, offer of psychological therapy, re-employment and compensation payments of up to £95,000 for each person affected.
The response is part of a programme instigated by the board last year entitled “a culture fit for the future,” overseen by a human resources officer. Whistleblowing doctors helped shape the plan.
Linda Kirkland, chairwoman of the No More Victims pressure group, said: “I’m absolutely delighted that we’ve got to this point. Eighteen months ago, when the whistleblowers launched their need for an investigation, we never thought that we’d get to this point.
“So we’re thrilled and grateful that we’ve had the opportunity to co-produce the process.
‘Eighteen months ago, when the whistleblowers launched their need for an investigation, we never thought that we’d get to this point.’Linda Kirkland, chairwoman of No More Victims
“Whilst it may not be absolutely perfect, we’re so much further forward than we ever thought we’d get, so we’re really chuffed.”
NHS Highland said it is “seeking to address the recommendations of the Sturrock Report” as part of a “healing process”.
QC John Sturrock led an independent inquiry into the allegations of bullying after several hundred staff lodged complaints.
His report, published in May 2019, made a series of recommendations for the board to consider and implement to address cultural issues relating to bullying and harassment that had been identified.
NHS Highland board chairman Professor Boyd Robertson said: “As I said last June, when we set out to develop our healing process, I and the whole board stand four-square behind the victims of bullying and we reaffirm that we are deeply sorry for the harm that has been caused to every one of those individuals.
“I would like to thank everyone who invested their time to work with us in developing an approach which meets the needs of former and current employees, and underpins a culture where every member of staff at NHS Highland feels listened to, valued and respected.”