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NHS Highland board meets to deal with the Sturrock Review

3rd September 2019

The board of NHS Highland came together last week for a dedicated workshop to look in depth at the issues arising from the bullying and inappropriate behaviour reported in the Sturrock Review published earlier this year.

The holding of a workshop was one of the key recommendations made in the Sturrock Review. The two-day event allowed board members, non-executive directors and senior management to reflect on the findings of the Report and to discuss how the organisation can move forward, deal with the harm that has been caused and bring about a cultural transformation that will aim to prevent this from happening in the future.

The workshop opened with powerful first-hand accounts from current and former staff members who had been personally affected by bullying and inappropriate behaviour. The board agreed that this moving testimony helped enormously to highlight areas of practice and procedures where improvements need to be made. It was recognised that several of these required actions had already been implemented but that more remains to be done.

Informed by the accounts they had heard, the board went on to look in detail at six key areas for improvement and agreed a number of actions to be taken in relation to each of them. The key themes explored were:

• Hurting & healing - understanding the harm caused and what should be done about it

• Information – gathering accurate data to benchmark, measure progress and flag up areas of concern

• People processes – establishing processes which are fair, transparent and provide opportunities for people to speak out if something is wrong as well as clarifying how any issues raised will be addressed

• Values & behaviours – agreeing and reinforcing the values and behaviours which NHS Highland expects staff to adopt.

• Pressure and resilience – ensuring that the demands placed upon staff are reasonable

• Communications - ensuring that people feel they are heard and that they know what is being done to address the issues.

Some of the actions suggested will be incorporated into the Action Plan which will be published following the current series of staff engagement meetings taking place across NHS Highland over the next three months. As appropriate, the suggested actions will be sense checked against feedback received in the staff engagement sessions so that the adopted plan will be as comprehensive and inclusive as possible.

In the short term it was also agreed that a number of actions will be taken immediately, particularly in relation to addressing the hurt felt by the victims of bullying and inappropriate behaviour. It was agreed that there will be a single process for restitution and healing, modelled on a case by case basis. The board is committed to working with those that came forward and providing specific and individualised support recognising that there will need to be a range of tailored solutions.

The board commissioned the executive team to develop a proposal for the operation of the scheme and to suggest when it should go live and for how long it should run. The scheme will be open to anyone who has been affected and everyone will be offered support appropriate to their own individual needs.

NHS Highland's Chief Executive Iain Stewart said: "The sessions were an effective platform for board members and senior management to discuss the issues NHS Highland has faced over the past 12 months in an open and honest way.

“The personal accounts from colleagues were extremely powerful and enabled us to gain a better understanding of how these issues have affected people in their professional and personal lives.

“It is clear that there has been significant harm caused by individuals in the past and I want to apologise to those affected. We want to use the first-hand experiences we heard to develop our action plan to implement the recommendations outlined in the Sturrock Report."

NHS Highland’s Interim Chair, Professor Boyd Robertson said: “I want to thank those individuals who came to speak to us and those who provided statements to us over the course of the two days. The personal accounts were very moving and encouraged all members of the board to increase our efforts to ensure we can develop our Action Plan to help the organisation move forward in a positive way.

“As a board we have been able to sit down together over the course of the last two days to really understand what has happened and how we can make a meaningful progress. It is clear we failed to prevent and recognise bullying and address the underlying causes and issues.

“The board is unanimous in its view that we must take tangible steps to radically change. We must create and foster a culture in which every member of staff feels supported, respected and valued. We are now more determined than ever to make this happen.”