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NHS Highland board quit call leads to row

By Staff Reporter

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Dr Iain Kennedy.
Dr Iain Kennedy.

CALLS for the heads of senior figures in NHS Highland have been branded a distraction by the health authority.

Dr Iain Kennedy – one of a quartet of medics who raised concerns about bullying within NHS Highland almost exactly a year ago – called for 10 executive and non-executive directors to stand down or be suspended.

He made the call amid claims they failed to act on concerns about bullying. It was the actions of whistle-blowers which were the catalyst for an independent review by John Sturrock QC into allegations.

As previously reported, non-executive board members had raised concerns in 2017, but no action was taken.

Dr Kennedy branded that “shameful” and said “they need to go”.

But NHS Highland’s director of corporate communications Jane McGirk said the organisation’s chairman Professor Boyd Robertson and chief executive Iain Stewart have full confidence in the board.

She added: “These repeated personal attacks on individuals are an unmerited distraction from the important business of implementing the recommendations in the Sturrock review to which NHS Highland is fully committed.”

Brian Devlin, media manager for the whistle-blowers, said Dr Kennedy had raised legitimate concerns.

“His concerns are justifiable and to have been dismissed by Jane McGirk as ‘personal attacks on individuals’ and in particular ‘an unmerited distraction’ is highly offensive, inaccurate and unprofessional,” he said.

The row came in the wake of revelations that NHS Highland could face a bill of more than £8 million to compensate bullied staff.

Health board bosses were quizzed by MSPs on Holyrood’s health committee this week and said they will be looking at compensation as part of their response to Sturrock’s inquiry.

Pamela Williams, senior employment solicitor at Law at Work incorporating Empire in Inverness, said that in a worst case scenario compensation claims could amount to £8.6 million.

At the same time the committee heard NHS Highland will need £19 million in Scottish Government loans over the next two years to balance its books.

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