Survey reveals bullying and harassment.

NHS Highland and Argyll and Bute Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP) have offered a sincere apology to colleagues in Argyll and Bute who indicated in a survey that they have experienced bullying and harassment.

446 (29%) of the 1540 NHS staff at Argyll and Bute HSCP responded to the independent survey, along with 62 former colleagues, with 68% of respondents indicating that they had experienced bullying and harassment. 

NHS Highland commissioned the survey in an ongoing plan to deliver a culture of trust, fairness and respect across the organisation. This programme of activity has so far seen the announcement of the Healing Process along with a new Employee Assistance Programme and independent ‘Speak Up’ service. 

The Board has also set up an independent helpline to allow colleagues to discuss concerns as part of a 100 day action plan for Argyll and Bute HSCP that includes: an independent review of disciplinary, grievance, bullying and harassment procedures; wider roll out of the courageous conversations programme; a monthly assurance panel to review hiring decisions and build trust; as well as defining behaviour standards that set clear role expectations for managers and colleagues.

Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron commented:

“It is frankly shocking that as many as 344 of the 508 respondents experienced bullying or harassment. For this level of poor behaviour to take place in an organisation that has, as its core activity, the care and protection of vulnerable and ill people seems extraordinary.

“The good news is that employees, past and present, have felt able to come forward and share their experiences. The important thing now is that their testimony is acted upon, and that such action is accompanied by a rigorous evaluation to ensure that progress is being made.

“Above all, confidence must be restored and that can only be done through a comprehensive and transparent process and I very much hope that the 100 Day Action Plan goes some way to achieving that.”

NHS Highland’s Chair, Professor Boyd Robertson, said: “We are deeply concerned by the results of the survey and accept them fully. We sincerely apologise to any colleague who has experienced bullying or harassment and are determined to make the changes necessary to improve the experience for colleagues and rebuild trust and confidence across the whole organisation.

“While significant work has already been undertaken to deliver a number of initiatives to address our cultural issues, this report reinforces the need for that programme to continue and for key priorities to be acted upon quickly. We have immediately put in place an action plan for Argyll and Bute which integrates into our wider culture improvement programme and will be delivered in partnership with colleagues and independent agencies”.

Argyll and Bute HSCP Chief Officer, Joanna Macdonald, added: “It is distressing to see that a significant number of our colleagues have experienced bullying and harassment and addressing the implications of this report will be a high priority. We will work in close partnership with colleagues and stakeholders across all of the organisation to deliver the actions necessary to achieve a culture that is based upon dignity and respect for each other.”

The survey was undertaken over a six week period between February and April using a quantitative online questionnaire, developed in partnership with trade union representatives, aimed at current and former employees of Argyll and Bute HSPC.