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Work remains to stamp out bullying behaviour affecting Argyll and Bute health and social care employees, a survey has revealed.
A widespread culture of staff bullying was revealed in a 2019 report into NHS Highland by John Sturrock QC.
As the Sturrock inquiry had a focus on the northern part of the health board, a 2020 NHS Highland-commissioned staff survey was carried out in Argyll and Bute.
The results showed that 68 per cent of respondents said they had experienced bullying and harassment.
In total, 446 (29 per cent) of 1,540 NHS staff at Argyll and Bute Health and Social Care Partnership, plus 62 former employees, responded.
A number of measures to address the problem were introduced, and in August 2021 the results of the first Listening and Learning staff survey were released.
Of 10,438 survey forms issued, 4,234 NHS and council staff – 39 per cent – took part.
In a press release accompanying the survey results the health board said the survey showed the organisation was ‘moving in the right direction’.
On the plus side, the responses revealed teams that know what they are doing and do it well, supporting each other and looking after each others’ wellbeing. There was a sense of positive change underway.
But other survey comments suggested that more needed to be done to increase staff understanding of the HSCP’s vision and priorities and to involve staff in decision-making.
Two questions on bullying and harassment were included in the survey. The responses showed that experiences of bullying and harassment had reduced, but 56 employees who responded said it was still happening.
Argyll and Bute HSCP Chief Officer Fiona Davies said: ‘We want everyone working at the HSCP to feel listened to and to know that their feedback will be acted on.
‘It is encouraging to hear that teams are so supportive of each other and that instances of bullying are decreasing and are the exception.
‘We are clear that bullying and harassment will not be tolerated in the HSCP.
‘We still need to learn from those areas where engagement is high and apply that learning where teams are feeling disengaged.
‘We will continue to do all we can to explain our priorities, strategy and structure, and to support new ways for our people to meet and interact with senior leaders.’
Trade unions, including UNISON, are working with the HSCP and NHS Highland to address staff behaviour and bullying.
Dawn MacDonald, UNISON branch secretary for NHS Highland healthcare branch, said that communication of progress being made on these issues had been ‘insufficient’ and must improve.
She continued: ‘We need tangible actions to come from these work streams as quickly as possible, then need to implement these actions, so they can reach frontline staff and stop staff being bullied.
‘Overall the process is taking too long.
‘Issues remain and we must see much more meaningful progress swiftly. UNISON will continue to push for this on behalf of our members.’
A former mental health nurse and long-term advocate of an independent probe into HSCP bullying, Councillor Dougie Philand said his real concern was the fact that 38 per cent of staff reported that they had experienced bullying and harassment, and that 15 per cent of those said it was still happening.
Writing to NHS Highland chief executive Pam Dudek, he said: ‘What alarms me is, with a total response rate of 39 per cent, one does not need to be a mathematician to work out that potentially there is still a massive problem within the organisation.
‘I have always asked for an independent QC investigation into the bullying and harassment within Argyll and Bute and believe these figures substantiate this.’