Herald's bitter struggle with BBC Scotland for worst health correspondent of the century continues on NHS Highland 'bullying'

At least there’s no picture of Jeanne Freeman here, this time. On May 9th BBC Scotland felt she should appear to be to blame ‘in the public interest’, of course:

Note: Nothing here denies that some NHS Highland staff may have been bullied. Their experience is regretted.

Nothing has changed in terms of the reality of the bullying headline claims.

Of NHS Highland’s 10 500 staff, 340 came forward, with personal reports of bullying or of the absence of bullying. Of these, for no reason given, 282 were met and of those, again for no reported reason, 186 formed the basis for ‘Report to the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport into Cultural Issues related to allegations of Bullying and Harassment in NHS Highland’April 2019 by John Sturrock QC. Do QC’s need to have passed Research Methods?

This gives a self-selecting sample, in itself statistically problematic, of 1.77% at most (some of those coming forward were no longer on the staff). A self-selecting sample is inevitably biased toward negative conclusions. Those who consider themselves to have been bullied are more likely to come forward. Why were only 186 selected from the 340 coming forward? A sample of 1.77% is so far short of reliability as to be laughable. On page 51, late, we read that 66% of those186 selected, 186 (123?) ‘wished to report experiences of what they described as bullying.’ So, 1.17% of NHSH staff, at most, say they were bullied?

Further, the lead researcher admits: I am not an expert in the workings of the NHS

nor in allegations of organisational bullying. I am better informed now but I am more of a generalist than a specialist. That needs to be borne in mind by the reader.’ (25)

Not surprisingly the author hesitates at first in his conclusion:

‘While it is not possible to conclude conclusively that there is or is not a bullying culture in NHSH, it may be possible to conclude that the majority (sic) of employees of NHSH have not experienced bullying as such.’ (16)

Hah! For ‘majority’ read around ‘10 400m out of 10 500.’

Less predictably, given his lack of hard evidence, he goes on to speculate:

‘Having said that, extrapolating from the evidence available to this review, it seems equally possible that many hundreds have experienced behaviour which is inappropriate.’ (16)

This conclusion remains utterly qualified and really says nothing at all. Why couldn’t he bring himself to say ‘bullying?’ See this below:

62 of those interviewed were angry about the accusations of bullying:

‘A significant minority (33%) of respondents expressed views with varying degrees of firmness to the effect that there is not a problem, or at least that there is no bullying culture as such, and that any conduct of concern is nothing other than what might be expected in any similar organisation with day to day pressures. They have been hurt and angered by the adverse impact of the allegations which have been made, on patients, staff and local communities.’ (43)


‘In relation to the allegations of bullying made against House staff, a number of people referred to the need to distinguish between behaviour that is truly bullying and behaviour that is no more than “assertive” or “firm” management. They referred, similarly, to the need to distinguish between harassment and legitimate supervision.’ (46)


10 500 staff


Published by johnrobertson834

Retired Professor of Media Politics Not-for-profit independent political analysis

3 thoughts on “Herald's bitter struggle with BBC Scotland for worst health correspondent of the century continues on NHS Highland 'bullying'

  1. I have had to investigate, on many occasions, allegations of bullying. It is difficult, in most cases, to establish what the facts are. A large part of the problem is that in many cases the person (and parent, trade union officer, councillor, social worker, colleague, etc) alleging that he or she is being bullied BELIEVES it to be so. This is compounded by those supporting the alleged victim, that the allegation is TRUE and that there is nothing to investigate. On many occasions I have heard the supporter, say, “Nobody makes such a statement unless it is true” (or words to that effect.) There are then unsubstantiatable and manifestly untrue assertions, that ‘bullying is rife here’ or ‘nothing is ever done about it’ or ‘people are too feart to come forward.” In fact, their strategy is one of BULLYING the investigator and the alleged bully. When this is pointed out to them, on the few occasions when they accept that they are bullying, they justify it by ‘If it is the only way to get something done, then so be it!’

    Newspapers and the media operate substantially by bullying and they do so with full conscious intent and, usually for malign purposes.

    Of course bullying occurs and should be investigated. What the alleged victim says should be taken AT FACE VALUE, which does not mean accepting that it is true, and it is this statement which is the subject of the investigation. In many cases, settlements, closures and reconciliations and remediations can be found. Usually, the victim is more prepared to accept these than her/his ‘supporters’. As far as the victim is concerned, what is usually most important is for the bullying/unpleasantness (for, often that is what it is) to stop.

    However, the media usually have ulterior motives when they take up a case. If they get some kind of justice for a victim, that is but a bonus. What they really wanted was toacquire power – the more unaccountable the better – and to have damaged an opponent in some way.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Bullying like beauty is pretty much in the eye of the beholder. It exists but is difficult to define and thus to identify but its effects can be harmful to the person on the wrong end of it.

    How much of what is claimed to be bullying actually a clash of personalities or poor people management skills or some combination of both?

    There may be a dictionary definition but is there a legal definition that allows for definite identification?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Joke of the day from balloon-on-a-stick jester Mick (the knife) Gove at today’s Boris agitprop fest on the Beeb.

    “Is there anyone from the “Scottish” media, with a question?” Asks Mickey with a smirk.

    He knows, as do we all, that tomorrow’s “Scottish” headlines are written in GCHQ or CCHQ (honestfacts’R’us), so flying the subservient hacks off to London would be a waste, when they could be watching a moral boosting Ruthie video.

    Liked by 1 person

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