NHS staff 'can be too scared to be whistle-blowers'
NHS Scotland chief executive Paul Gray says there is 'no place' for bullying.
NHS staff can be too scared to blow the whistle on bad practice, NHS Scotland's chief executive has admitted to MSPs.
Paul Gray said some fears of retribution may be "well-founded" but others can simply be based on a "vague" concern.
He stressed there is "no place" for bullying or harassment within the NHS.
The public petitions committee has been looking at a campaign calling for NHS staff to have an independent national whistle-blowing hotline to report "mismanagement and bullying".
The petition by community campaigner Peter Gregson proposes the hotline would replace the current NHS Scotland National Confidential Alert Line, a service he claims is seen as ineffectual.
Mr Gray gave evidence on the issue on Thursday, alongside Shirley Rodgers, the director of health workforce and strategic change for the Scottish Government.
Mr Gray told MSPs: "I wanted to make it clear that from my perspective there is no place in which people should be inhibited through fear from raising concerns.
"Clearly I did that because I recognise that in some places there was some fear. I wouldn't have done it if I had thought there was nothing to fix. So I'm accepting that that can happen.
"I want to continue to work with people through the partnership arrangements we have to ensure that people can, without fear, raise concerns."
He added: "I'm seeking to be clear that bullying and harassment in any form whatsoever has no place anywhere in the National Health Service. Have I got it completely fixed? No, I have not."
Mr Gray also spoke out strongly against bullying within the workplace.
He said: "To be simple about it, there's no such thing in my world as low-level bullying. It should not happen ever, at all, anywhere.
"If there is a sense that something like that is being normalised, then that is utterly, fundamentally wrong."
Ms Rodgers said more needs to be done to promote the "successful stories" in which staff raised concerns that were dealt with satisfactorily.
The panel was also questioned on figures suggesting the number of calls to the helpline was down by around 75% in 2015, compared to the point when it was set up.
Mr Gray said that does not mean confidence in the service is down.
He said: "The data may suggest that the spike in calls at the beginning was because people had, in a sense, a bottled-up set of issues that they felt they had nowhere to go with.
"The National Confidential Alert Line met that need so the reduction in calls may not actually indicate a loss of confidence in the system itself."