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Nurses who claim to have suffered financial loss due to bullying at a Scottish health board have been told to take their own legal action if they want compensation.
At a meeting this week, NHS Highland confirmed that alleged victims would have to go down the route of an employment tribunal to seek rewards.
“They need open and honest conversations with staff”
It comes after an independent review carried out by John Sturrock QC earlier this year found hundreds of people had experienced bullying and inappropriate behaviour at the board.
Sources have said they have since had to leave their jobs or had their careers ruined because of mistreatment.
NHS Highland is currently undertaking a so-called “healing process” to resolve ongoing issues but this will not cover financial loss or compensation.
However, there are concerns that too much time may have passed for some people to be able to go foward with a tribunal while others may not be able to afford to take legal action.
Highlands and Islands MSP, David Stewart, described this as a “huge blow” for the people affected.
Mr Stewart, who is also Labour’s shadow public health minister, said he had been told in September by the interim chair of NHS Highlands, Professor Boyd Robertson, that “compensation was being considered, but he could not give a definitive answer about how it would be tackled”.
“That gave people some hope which has now been taken away,” Mr Stewart added.
Mr Stewart has now lodged a Parliamentary Question asking if the Scottish Government was approached by the board for funds to cover compensation for the victims of bullying but it turned it down.
“That gave people some hope which has now been taken away”
An answer is expected on 11 December.
Bob McGlashan, Royal College of Nursing Scotland senior officer, who has been supporting victims, said: “NHS Highland has significant work to do to regain the trust of the workforce.
“They need open and honest conversations with staff about the progress being made to improve the culture and address the issues raised in the Sturrock report.”
In a statement, NHS Highland said it did not have “the structure, resources or expertise” to adjudicate on such claims and as a publicly-funded organisation, decisions about awards should have “robust scrutiny and oversight” from appropriate professionals.
“We need to be clear that this decision today is about the route to be followed and is not a statement that compensation for financial loss will not be available,” it added.
“We understand that, in some cases, as a direct or indirect consequence of experiences at NHS Highland, there may be financial impacts and these will continue to be given appropriate consideration through these legal processes.”