Highland doctors call for independent 'bullying' investigation

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Dr Iain Kennedy
Image caption,
Dr Kennedy has asked for an independent investigation into the recent allegations

Senior doctors from across the Highlands have called for a fully independent investigation into recent allegations of bullying in the NHS.

More than 100 clinicians attended a meeting called by senior management on Thursday, while others from across the area took part via video.

It follows claims of a culture of intimidation at NHS Highland.

NHS Highland chairman David Alston said the board had "nothing to hide" and welcomed external input.

Thursday's meeting was held in a lecture theatre at University of Highlands and Islands and was called by NHS Highland's medical director Dr Rod Harvey and chaired by former MSP Dave Thompson.

'Moving stories'

About 60 people spoke as they shared stories of their own experiences in relation to the bullying allegations.

Dr Iain Kennedy, one of four whistleblowers who first spoke out about the situation, is heading to the Scottish government with fellow doctors on Monday to discuss the allegations.

Dr Kennedy said: "There were a number of requests in the room that NHS Highland must now acknowledge that there been a severe culture of bullying over many years. Once it has acknowledged that, it must say sorry to the victims past and present.

"One of the most moving stories was from a consultant who said that the first 25 years of had been very good and the last 10 years had been very sad indeed. He was retiring with a sense of sadness."

'Time for reform'

The other three whistleblowers, Dr Eileen Anderson, Dr Lorien Cameron-Ross and Dr Jonathan Ball, all made their allegations in a letter to The Herald newspaper, claiming that for at least a decade, there had been a culture of "fear and intimidation".

They will all be heading to the Scottish government meeting with the director general of NHS Scotland, Paul Grey, to stress the desire for an external review to go ahead.

Dr Kennedy said: "The clinical voice is clear, 90% support an independent external review and NHS Highland now must get fully behind that independent review.

"We are aware that bullying is common in the NHS, its not just NHS Highland, although we think we have a particularly severe form of it here.

"We now have an opportunity to be the leaders of reforming the culture of the NHS in Scotland and in the UK."

David Alston, chairman of NHS Highland said: "Since the allegations were brought to the attention of the board, despite significant effort, we have been unable to fully understand the nature, extent and causes of the concerns being raised.

"What is clear, however, is there are a growing number of staff feeling distressed and concerned about their working environment.

"In view of the situation we find ourselves in, it would not be in the board's interest to now attempt to manage this on our own.

"The board has said all along that we have nothing to hide and, therefore, in order to understand and address the underlying issues, we would welcome external input to determine what is required."