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Health Minister to meet with NHS Highland chiefs again on bullying

By Scott Maclennan

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NHS Highland has put the brakes on its policy of telling bullying victims who want compensation for their experiences that they will have to go through the formal courts or tribunals system.

The board announced in November that both current and former employees who felt they had been bullied and who wanted compensation would have to pursue that through formal processes.

That was met with an angry response from MSPs, unions and bullying whistle-blowers who said it would see many people missing out due to legal time bars on mounting cases or simply the expense of going to court, or that it could reopen old wounds for people already traumatised by past experiences.

The board has now said it will confer further with Scotland’s health secretary, Jeane Freeman, on the matter.

Scottish Health Secretary Jeane Freeman...Picture: Callum Mackay.
Scottish Health Secretary Jeane Freeman...Picture: Callum Mackay.

At the latest NHS Highland board meeting, chairman Professor Boyd Robertson confirmed Ms Freeman would return to Inverness early next month.

“We are in dialogue with Jeane Freeman and will be again in a fortnight’s time which will be the critical meeting to determine the way forward,” he said.

“We are not miles apart on it at all – we have to do some finessing about an approach.

“There will be some discussions with the whistle-blowers as well to understand more fully what they require or desire and that will take place on February 10 because I believe the health secretary is meeting them again as well.

“The main thing Jeane Freeman wants is more dialogue and a more personal, bespoke approach rather than processes – but we need to establish processes and go through the channels.

“We need to meet each and every person affected on a one-to-one basis, but we also need to be mindful there is a huge resource requirement to that.

“So that will be for (new NHS Highland chief executive) Paul Hawkins and I, when the cabinet secretary comes, to talk through what that looks like and the capacity that we need to add to our HR operation to fully address these issues and to meet some of the criticism that has been levelled at us of slow progress.”

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