Bullying cases in Scotland's NHS rose almost 50% in past five years

The number of bullying cases reported in Scotland’s NHS has risen by almost 50 per cent over the past five years.

Monday, 20th June 2022, 4:55 am

New figures have revealed there were 724 cases recorded over that period – with a steady rise from 126 in 2017/18 to 185 in 2021/22.

The statistics, coming from a Freedom of Information request, showed increases across Scotland.

Bullying cases rose the most in in NHS Highland (from five in 2017/18 to 35 in 2021/22) and NHS Tayside (from 11 to 35).

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Health secretary Humza Yousaf is seen during a visit at Liberton Hospital. Picture: Peter Summers/Getty Images

Shadow health secretary Dr Sandesh Gulhane described the figures as “deeply alarming", and pointed to problems with recruiting and retaining staff across Scotland’s health service.

The MSP said: “This dramatic rise in bullying cases in Scotland’s health service is deeply alarming – no-one should be subjected to intimidation in the workplace.

“Workplace culture in any organisation is set at the very top – and in this case that’s individual health board bosses and, ultimately, health secretary Humza Yousaf.

“Whether it’s the problems at NHS Tayside’s oncology department or the apparent efforts to silence whistle-blowers at Glasgow’s Queen Elizabeth hospital, there is evidence of an unhealthy culture of secrecy and closing ranks in our NHS that must be nipped in the bud.

Health secretary Humza Yousaf has been urged to take action over bullying cases. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

“The greatest problem facing Scotland’s crisis-ridden NHS currently is the massive shortage of frontline staff, which is a product of the SNP’s dire workforce planning.

“When recruitment and retention of staff is your top priority, a sharp increase in bullying cases is the last thing you need.

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“There is never a justification for bullying, which can have a hugely damaging effect on the mental health of staff who have been overstretched for years and are more exhausted than ever due to the pandemic. Bullying can never be tolerated or covered up, as this creates a dangerous workplace environment where staff are fearful of speaking out.

“The health secretary has a duty to ensure our NHS is properly resourced and that health boards foster an open, tolerant workplace culture.”

NHS Highland confirmed late last year that it expected to pay £3.4 million in settlements to current and former staff who had complained of bullying.

A Scottish Government spokesperson labelled all bullying “unacceptable” and stressed ministers were “committed to fully supporting our NHS”.

The spokesperson said: “Ministers have made clear to health boards that bullying and harassment is unacceptable, and we expect them to ensure any reported incidents are taken seriously and fully investigated.

"Everyone who works in our Health Service must have the confidence to raise any concerns they may have, particularly in these unprecedented and challenging times.

"The health secretary has been absolutely clear that when a whistleblower raises a concern, this must be treated with the upmost seriousness and thoroughly investigated, including any concerns about safe staffing levels and any compromise to patient safety.

"Each health board has dedicated whistleblowing champions to seek assurance that staff are encouraged and supported to speak up.

“We are fully aware of the difficult circumstances that boards and front-line staff are working in, which is why we have worked hard to ensure that our NHS maintains the increased numbers of staff we’ve seen over the past ten consecutive years.”