NHS must tackle bullying culture head-on, says BMA Scotland boss

26 June 2019, 06:52


The opportunity to transform the culture in Scotland's NHS and rebuild trust among staff "must not be squandered", according to a doctors' union boss.

Dr Lewis Morrison, chairman of the British Medical Association (BMA) in Scotland, will give a speech in Belfast on Wednesday following the publication of the Sturrock Report, which considered allegations of bullying at NHS Highland.

In its findings, the report concluded potentially hundreds of staff had endured inappropriate behaviour while working at the health board.

The independent investigation was commissioned by Health Secretary Jeane Freeman in November after concerns were raised by a group of senior clinicians.

In his speech at the BMA's annual representative meeting in Belfast, Dr Morrison is expected to say NHS Scotland has become "fertile ground" for inappropriate behaviour to be carried out.

"I think it is clear that bullying and harassment is the issue that has dominated the NHS in Scotland this year," Dr Morrison will say.

"The issues aren't new but are only now coming fully to light.

"We welcomed the NHS Highland review, led by John Sturrock QC, whose report makes for stark reading.

"We applauded the apologies that followed from our Cabinet Secretary Jeane Freeman and from the leadership of NHS Highland, and the setting up of a short-life working group over this summer to address the problem across the NHS in Scotland.

"That group must ask why the NHS in Scotland has become such fertile ground for wholly inappropriate behaviours and then it must address the reasons head-on."

In his speech, Dr Morrison is also expected to state there must be a move away from a blame culture and instead ensure a system is in place where staff are listened to.

"It's time to move beyond fact finding and apologies," he will say.

"The opportunity for change and rebuilding trust must not be squandered.

"Doctors and healthcare workers in Scotland must be able to go to work unafraid, knowing concerns will be listened to and dealt with.

"We need to measure what our NHS does but a blame-driven culture, where we measure arbitrary things like waiting lists, which are simply unachievable, must end - and it must end quickly."

He will add: "At the heart of all these issues is whether doctors are valued and feel valued. Our members too often tell us they aren't.

"So, the message is plain - value us, through actions, not just words.

"If we can work in a system where we are genuinely listened to, in well-staffed supportive services, and be properly paid without threat of financial penalty, then Scotland will be a place where doctors want to train and crucially stay."

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: "The welfare of staff in our NHS is paramount and we expect NHS boards to do everything possible to eradicate bullying in the workplace.

"The Health Secretary, in the Scottish Government's response to the Sturrock review, set out a package of measures to support the reinforcement of positive working cultures across our health service.

"This includes convening a ministerial-led working group which will look at what practical strategies can be put in place to ensure staff are able to work in an open, fair and supportive environment whatever their role and wherever they might be based, and we look forward to working with the BMA on this."