Doctor 'lost job after challenging ward closure'

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Jan Calder
Image caption,
Dr Jan Calder said her experience left her feeling demoralised and disempowered

A doctor says she was bullied before losing her job after raising concerns about the closure of Argyll's only dementia assessment unit.

Dr Jan Calder was a locum consultant psychiatrist with Argyll and Bute Health and Social Care Partnership.

She said matters "turned sour" after she challenged the closure of the Knapdale Ward in Lochgilphead.

The partnership declined to comment on Dr Calder's case, but said it treated bullying "very seriously".

Over the course of 18 months, Dr Calder worked in several roles within the partnership, which also involves Argyll and Bute Council and NHS Highland.

Her contract, due for renewal in September 2019, was terminated in July that year.

She had raised concerns about a review of the 12-bed Knapdale Ward in Mid Argyll Community Hospital.

The ward, which is now in the process of being closed, is to be replaced with an "enhanced" community care model.

Dr Calder argued that the unit supported people who could not be adequately cared for under the new arrangement.

She said: "It wasn't until I began to raise concerns about the manner in which the review of dementia services was taking place that things began to turn a little bit sour."

"I ultimately raised a whistle-blowing concern with NHS Highland's board at the beginning of July 2019.

"Three weeks later, on the basis of a spurious complaint, and certainly one I should have been allowed to answer, I was effectively put out of a job and my contract was not renewed."

'Marginalised and ignored'

Dr Calder said she continued to campaign against the ward closure and raised concerns again with Argyll and Bute Health and Social Care Partnership in March this year.

She said: "Despite my concerns they went ahead with the decision to close the Knapdale Ward. I felt that my concerns had been marginalised and ignored."

Dr Calder said the experience left her feeling "demoralised and disempowered".

She said the partnership should be a mature enough organisation to allow people to speak out if they disagreed with decisions, and still be able to work together.

Dr Calder has spoken out following the results of the latest Argyll and Bute Health and Social Care Partnership staff survey. Of the 1,500 staff surveyed, 508 responded, with 68% of them saying they had experienced bullying and harassment.

Image caption,
The partnership's Kieron Green said processes were in place to address bullying

Argyll and Bute councillor and joint chairman of the health partnership, Kieron Green, said a system was in place to address bullying.

He said: "That has included investing in additional resources in HR to make sure staff have the greatest possible support."

Mr Green said as far as he was aware everyone was treated fairly.

He added: "If that hasn't been some people's experience then obviously if that needs to be worked on then that's something that will be addressed through the processes that are in place."

'Healing process'

Allegations of bullying at NHS Highland were the subject of a review led by John Sturrock QC, but the focus was on examining issues raised by staff working in the Highlands and did not include Argyll and Bute.

The results of the review, published last year, suggested hundreds of health workers had potentially experienced inappropriate behaviour at the health board.

In May this year, NHS Highland offered staff who experienced bullying an "independent healing process" for handling their concerns.

Current and former employees have been given four options, which include "being heard", an apology and access to psychological therapies.

They can also opt to have their case heard by an independent review panel.