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Rise in reports of bullying in NHS ‘deeply alarming’ say Scottish Conservatives

Conservative MSP Sandesh Gulhane has said reports of bullying in the NHS are “deeply worrying” (PA)
Conservative MSP Sandesh Gulhane has said reports of bullying in the NHS are “deeply worrying” (PA)

Bullying has increased by almost 50% across Scottish health boards, the Scottish Conservatives claim.

In total, 724 cases of bullying were recorded across the NHS, representing a 47% rise from 126 in 2017-18 to 185 in 2021-22, according to the party.

In NHS Highland, the recorded instances of bullying have increased by 600% over the last five years, but fell by 12.5% last year.

Eleven cases of bullying were recorded in NHS Tayside in 2017-18 compared to 35 in 2021-22 – an increase of 218% and 94%.

The increase in reports of bullying is not uniform across all Scottish health boards, however.

Over the last year, reports of bullying in NHS Borders dropped by 57% and 63% over the last five years.

Incidents of bullying in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde were falling, but rose last year from less than five to 10.

Figures obtained by the Scottish Conservatives via a Freedom of Information request reveal there were 724 cases recorded over that period – with a steady rise from 126 in 2017-18 to 185 in 2021-22.

The most startling rises in bullying cases came in NHS Highland (from five in 2017-18 to 35 in 2021-22) and NHS Tayside (from 11 to 35).

Shadow health secretary Dr Sandesh Gulhane described the figures as “deeply alarming”, given the problems with recruiting and retaining staff across Scotland’s health service, and highlighted a “worrying culture” within the NHS.

Dr Gulhane 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.”

Dr Gulhane said a shortage of staff is the biggest problem facing the NHS.

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

“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.”

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