THIS week's Councillor Column comes from Cllr Graham Hardie (Liberal Democrat, Helensburgh Central).

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IN my role as a non-executive director of the NHS Highland health board I have been providing oversight and scrutiny in recent months on the NHS Highland Healing Process.

This was designed as a part of the NHS Highland response to the recommendations from the Sturrock Report into bullying experienced by those working across NHS Highland, including in Argyll and Bute, to focus on healing for those who had been harmed by their experiences.

This unique and bespoke process was co-produced by a team of independent experts in conjunction with whistleblowers and staff representatives and has been supported and funded by the Scottish Government.

It offers supported conversations, psychological therapies and the ability to access an independent review panel which offers a range of outcomes, including an apology from the chief executive and financial payment where appropriate.

The panel also produces organisational learning reports, of which two have already been presented to the NHS Highland board and the Argyll and Bute health and social care partnership’s integration joint board (IJB), and which ensure the actions being taken will resolve the issues highlighted.

READ MORE: Social workers 'unheard' over bullying fears, claims ex-council employee

The Healing Process is all delivered by a range of specialist external providers, in a highly confidential process which is focused on listening, addressing the harm and providing an opportunity for healing. It does not focus on blame, fault or seeking to verify facts in the way a formal people process or tribunal would.

The process was well promoted and publicised between its initial launch in May 2020 and closing for applications on March 31, 2021. There was a high level of participation across the board area, including Argyll and Bute, and a total of 309 current and former colleagues registered.

Already 150 have been through the panel, and these hearings will continue through to the end of the year.

Many of those who have been through the process have appreciated being heard and listened to, and the apologies that have been made. Many have accessed support from the independent provider of psychological support, with most reporting that they found this helpful.

It is important that we learn the lessons of the past and that the circumstances which allowed a culture of bullying and poor behaviour to flourish are never again repeated.

However, it is positive to see such significant efforts being made to acknowledge the harm and to help those impacted to heal, alongside all the other work on improving culture for our hard working health and social care colleagues across Argyll and Bute.

READ MORE: 'Long way to go to tackle HSCP bullying': ex employees react to 'damning' report