Bullying in NHS 'hitting patient care', says BMA

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The head of BMA Scotland said: "In the health service, where what we do can make the difference between life and death, it is nothing less than a scandal."

Bullying in the NHS is a "scandal" which is hitting patient care, according to the head of BMA Scotland.

Dr Lewis Morrison said bullying and harassment in the service were still widespread, and had a serious impact on doctors.

He said such a culture could only have serious negative repercussions for patient care.

The Scottish government insisted staff welfare was paramount and all bullying was unacceptable.

In his Christmas and New Year message for doctors, the BMA Scotland chairman said recent high-profile cases and a survey conducted by the BMA indicated the problem was still widespread.

Image source, Douglas Robertson
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Dr Lewis Morrison says levels of bullying and harassment in the NHS are "a scandal"

The survey reported that 38% of doctors found bullying and harassment an issue in their workplace.

An independent review is being held into NHS Highland after senior clinicians raised concerns over a "long-standing bullying culture" they alleged was damaging patient care.

Four 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

The health board's medical director Dr Rod Harvey has said he does "not recognise" the claims.

Target pressures

The BMA's Dr Morrison said: "Doctors have told us that bullying and harassment is still widespread and recent high-profile cases only serve to underline those concerns.

"Every single case will have a serious impact on the doctor concerned. It threatens to undermine them and prevent them from focusing on patients."

He added: "It is also worth reflecting on the view of many doctors that the high-pressure environment, focused on targets that are often simply unattainable within current resources, is having a negative impact on workplace cultures - at every level."

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Raigmore hospital: Four senior doctors said there had been a culture of "fear and intimidation" at NHS Highland.

Dr Morrison said greater efforts were needed to ensure doctors can speak about bullying without fearing for their careers.

BMA Scotland will carry out work in 2019 to understand doctors' experience of bullying and harassment, examine causes and put forward solutions.

A summit of key stakeholders will take place in early summer on making Scotland's NHS a more positive place to work.

Dr Morrison added: "We will be hoping for a similar commitment, both from the government and across NHS management - and welcome the positive indications they have already made on this agenda."

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Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said anyone coming forward with concerns would be heard

A Scottish government spokesman said: "The welfare of staff in our NHS is paramount and everything possible must be done to eradicate bullying in the workplace.

"This type of behaviour is unacceptable regardless of the circumstances and we expect health boards to ensure all reported incidences are fully investigated.

"As the health secretary has made very clear, if there is anyone in our health service who is feeling bullied or harassed we take that very seriously, and we want those staff to come forward, safe in the knowledge they will be heard."

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