Leader: ‘The public is entitled to know who’s at fault’

Nicola Sturgeon: Deserves credit for decisive action. Picture: Julie Bull
Nicola Sturgeon: Deserves credit for decisive action. Picture: Julie Bull
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The independent report into bullying by management at NHS Lothian could hardly be clearer.

Demeaning, threatening and hostile behaviour has been rife within certain parts of our local health service. That bullying has harmed both the health board’s 28,000 employees and, indirectly, but significantly, the patients for whom they care.

Many excellent managers have been honourable exceptions, but this oppressive management style has encouraged staff to hide problems, rather than solve them, and intimidated those who might have blown the whistle into silence.

The problems have been ongoing for some time and root-and-branch reform is now required. Curing NHS Lothian of its own ills is now the urgent priority.

Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon deserves credit for taking decisive action when the problem first emerged, along with the scandal of the health board’s doctoring of waiting lists.

But the public is also entitled to know who is at fault for things going so badly wrong.

In saying the problem “came from the top”, the Scottish Government has clearly pointed a finger at £170,000-a-year former chief executive Professor James Barbour – who conveniently for him retired just a fortnight ago.

The decision to allow him to leave, with a lump sum of around £220,000 on top of an annual pension of £75,000, now looks questionable.

It is true the professor has earned a decent pension after 35 years in the health service, whether it should be quite such a large one is a different debate for another day.

But his retirement means that, unless he chooses to answer his critics, he will never have to justify his key role in this sorry saga.

We wish interim chief executive Tim Davison well as he sets about transforming the working culture within our health service.

For, as the PricewaterhouseCooper report states, “ultimately NHS Lothian has to focus on patients and their needs. It will be better able to do so with an engaged and highly motivated workforce, appropriately led.”