Donald Cameron, Scottish Conservative MSP for the Highlands and Islands, has demanded action from the Scottish Government over the bullying crisis at NHS Highland with specific reference to revelations about practices in Argyll and Bute.
The Sturrock Report, published today (9th May) has confirmed that a culture of harassment and bullying has prevailed at NHS Highland for at least a decade.
Mr Cameron questioned the Cabinet Secretary for Health, Jeane Freeman MSP, at the Scottish Parliament on the contents of the report, written by John Sturrock QC.
Mr Cameron drew the Cabinet Secretary’s attention to those parts of the review which covered Argyll and Bute.
In the report Mr Sturrock wrote that he was “concerned to hear from a number of sources about particular problems in some of the island communities and of a management culture located in Lochgilphead and Oban which seems to have created significant tensions and resulted in poor relations between managers and frontline staff.”
Mr Cameron asked the Cabinet Secretary for her response to the suggestion in the report that a specific and independent review of management practices in Argyll and Bute was necessary given that the nature of some of the allegations implicated management “at a very senior level”.
After the debate Mr Cameron said: “I am pleased that Jeane Freeman accepted my point and will now look into appointing someone external to investigate what has happened in Argyll and Bute.
“It is quite clear that this is very serious indeed and that it goes right to the top of the organisation.
“Although there has been an understandable focus on Raigmore and the northern part of the NHS Highland area, it is evident that this issue has also had repercussions for staff and patients in Argyll and Bute too. That must not be overlooked.
“This crisis has been in the making for years and is about more than just bullying. It is about failures of governance and leadership, and led to a growing sense of disillusionment among the communities that NHS Highland is there to serve.
“NHS Highland is the largest public sector employer in both the Highland and Argyll and Bute council areas, and is ultimately the responsibility of the Scottish Government.
“Health secretaries have come and gone but the problems have only grown worse as we see our health professionals struggling to deliver the care across the region which they so badly wish to deliver.
“For years we have seen public confidence draining away as NHS Highland has struggled with deficits and contracting services. There have been constant warnings about the consequences but little has been done.
“This has been bad for patients, and bad for communities who have lost services, but it has also led to many of NHS Highland’s staff being put under intense pressure.”