Branch and UNISON Scotland Press Releases

12 July 2022


UNISON Highland Healthcare Branch Officer Lyn Wormald intereviewed in support of UNISON's pay campaign




27 June 2022




The Healing Process is an independent process set up following the Sturrock Review into allegations of Bullying and Harassment in NHS Highland (NHSH).


272 current and former NHS Highland staff had their cases heard by the Healing Process Panel, and payments have totalled more than £2,825,000. These are sobering statistics that show the scale of the problem.


In addition to hearing individual cases, the Independent Review Panel (IRP) also provided quarterly reports to NHSH highlighting themes and issues. The final report has just been released.


UNISON recognises that NHS Highland has developed an ambitious Cultural Improvement Programme to respond to the 64 recommendations from the QC Sturrock review 2019 and appreciates this will take time to implement.


In some places it is difficult however to see how this has resulted in tangible changes on the grass roots some 3 years past the review outcome.


UNISON agrees with the IRP there are fundamental issues that need to change – better ways to evidence change is happening, better and quicker systems to ensure staff can raise issues of poor behaviour, and increased staff confidence that issues will be addressed.


Staff need to start seeing evidence of this positive cultural change on the ground now.


UNISON will work to ensure that the lessons from Sturrock are learned and will work with NHS Highland to implement these changes.

24 February 2021


Shut the door, Frank - it's the UNISON Highland Healthcare AGM!


Like many big events this year, the UNISON Highland Healthcare annual general meeting is going online. We know that these meetings are not always the most exciting events, although they are very important for Branch democracy. So this year, we decided to cheer our members up and do something a bit different. Instead of offering members a meal, and perhaps having a political speaker, we've decided that members need a boost.


Dawn MacDonald, UNISON Branch Secretary said "It's been a really difficult year for our members, who have worked super-hard in the face of a very scary pandemic. So we decided that members needed cheering up. So we have a very special guest for the AGM this year - a Glasgow comedian made famous recently for her famous voice-overs of Nicola Sturgeon press conferences - Janey Godley! We are sure that this will make for a great meeting."


Branch Chair, Anne Campbell said "Members need to get this in the diary now. We're having two online meetings at 3.00 pm and 7.00 pm on Thursday 4 March, so as many members as possible get a chance to attend the AGM - and to see Janey Godley".


Jane Godley said “‘I am delighted to be part of your AGM this year. You have all done such a brilliant job in these difficult times. Hopefully we can all have a laugh together.”


Details of how to register for and join the meetings will be circulated to members direct.

14 August 2020


Support UNISON support the NHS!


Pay campaign demonstrations at Raigmore Hospital and Victoria Hospital, Rothesay on 18 August. 


UNISON are holding a short, socially-distanced, demonstration outside at Raigmore on Tuesday 18 August at 11.00 am, to allow members to show their anger and upset at the Scottish Government’s refusal to re-open the pay deal for 2019/20, and failure to recognise the huge efforts that staff in the NHS have made in response to the pandemic.  This is part of a series of demonstrations which will be taking place nationally.

UNISON Pay up Now campaign is thanking the public and asking them for their continued support for a NHS pay rise.

The trade union is calling on the Scottish Government to re-open the NHS three year pay deal, and for ministers to sit down with the trade unions to discuss a pay rise for all NHS staff.


More here:



20063 Press Release 200814 NHS Pay.doc
Microsoft Word document [74.5 KB]

27 July 2020


UNISON calls for a halt on RNI closure decision


UNISON contacted Paul Hawkins, the Chief Executive of NHS Highland, yesterday to call for a halt on the decision to close the RNI, and break up a team which has worked so effectively through the worst parts of the Covid pandemic.

Branch Secretary, Dawn MacDonald said “We were shocked to learn of the NHS Highland plan to close the wards at the RNI, which came completely out of the blue for staff on Friday. They are a great team, very committed to the care of the patients they serve, and could not see the logic at all behind the plan. One member told us:

There are so many community patients badly needing a hospital bed with Raigmore Hospital not accepting many patients due to the alleged second wave of covid 19. The hospital has a deep community connection, well known for its cleanliness, professionalism and its exemplary care which all patients and families appreciate.”

Dawn went on “we support the need for the fire upgrade works but, without any involvement in this decision, cannot accept at this point that the only way for this to happen is for the one remaining ward to completely close at this time. We are contacting our members to put forward a collective grievance around this decision, and have alerted NHS Highland management to this fact.”

Branch Chair, Anne Campbell, said “We are aware that there have been previous situations where wards have closed for patient/staff safety reasons, and we have accepted this. This is not the case at the RNI. We’re happy to talk to management, but do not support the NHS Highland decision at this time”.

UNISON Scotland Media Release 

For immediate release

Friday, 15 May 2020 


UNISON response to Argyll & Bute Health and Social Care Partnership Culture Review Survey results


Responding to the release today (Friday) of a summary presentation of the results of a survey into the experiences of current and former NHS employees in the Argyll & Bute Health and Social Care Partnership, Dawn MacDonald, UNISON Highland Health Care branch secretary said: 


“It is tragic that the very staff that we clap for every Thursday to thank them for their unselfish caring for our loved ones have experienced bullying and harassment working for the NHS.”


“The results show that 68% had experienced bullying and 49% of respondents said the bullying and harassment had occurred in the last 6 months. This means bullying and harassment is happening now, in the NHS, in the midst of this pandemic. It must stop, and UNISON will support our members affected in securing justice and demanding a meaningful change in the culture. Confidence is low and we need to start to rebuild that.”


“It is very sad that so many (34%) from Nursing & Midwifery felt the need to complete this survey on bullying and harassment. It also speaks volumes that 62 ex employees of Argyll & Bute HSCP went out their way to fill in this survey.”


“However, while a sobering read these results are not surprising. UNISON has been raising concerns internally and with the Scottish Government regarding behaviours within the HSCP, the management team and Human Resources department since before October 2018.”


In November 2019, NHS Highland Board commissioned Progressive Partnership Ltd to carry out a survey of NHS Highland colleagues working in Argyll & Bute Health *& social Care Partnership.   The HSCP has around 1540 NHS Highland employees and 770 Council employees, the scope of the review did not include Council employees, so this report only covers two thirds of the HSCP. From a population of 1540 current NHS Highland colleagues in Argyll & Bute, 446 completed the survey, which is 29%.  Another 62 were former employees, making a total response of 508.


The findings of the survey are:


  • 79% of respondents had either experienced, witnessed or both experienced and witnessed bullying and harassment;
  • Of those 87% said it happened several times or frequently;
  • 68% of respondents experienced bullying or harassment;
  • 65% of respondents were current staff who reported experiencing bullying and harassment;
  • 49% responded that this had occurred in the last 6 months;
  • 61% of respondents  believe there is a culture of discouraging reporting;




UNISON is the biggest trade union in the NHS, the biggest trade union in Scotland and the UK.


UNISON, the biggest trade union in the NHS, has been concerned about the culture in the Argyll & Bute HSCP for a long time. UNISON tried unsuccessfully to address these issues internally. UNISON called on NHS Scotland’s Scottish Partnership Forum to instigate an urgent review of human resources in NHS Highland, back in October 2018


UNISON also argued that the scope of the Culture Review was too narrow. However we encouraged our members to engage in the process, and are pleased to note that large numbers of current and ex staff came forward to do so.


Argyll & Bute Health Social Care Partnership (HSCP) management excluded Argyll & Bute Council employees working within the HSCP from the survey. Therefore they are being advised of responses to a survey that they had no input to. 


UNISON concerns raised in October 2018 included:  

  • The length of time it takes to conclude investigations, disciplinaries and grievances. Months and years is the default timescale;
  • Suspensions are not used as last resort and risk assessing is not appropriate. When combined with the excessive delays in progressing cases this results in huge stress to those suspended and avoidable cost to the service,
  • Inappropriate behaviours and language;
  • A lack of willingness to seek constructive resolution;
  • An out of sight out of mind approach by NHS Highland to NHS staff employed in Argyll & Bute

UNISON Contacts 

Dawn MacDonald, Highland Health Care branch secretary, 07584 503799

Simon Macfarlane, regional organiser, 07703 194 132

Added 7 April 2020


UNISON Media Release


Embargo: Immediate Use


Please find a link to our national release on PPE issues today: https://unison-scotland.org/new-guidance-for-home-and-social-care-staff-in-scotland-puts-home-care-staff-at-risk/


We would add the following Argyll & Bute specific statement:


Today UNISON said: The situation with regards to PPE for key workers in Argyll & Bute has been at best mixed and at worst disgraceful. The situation on the ground for too many key workers has been lack of clarity and lack of access to PPE. At what is already a stressful period for everyone, not having clear guidance or the kit is sending anxiety through the roof and is dangerous. The UK and Scottish Government published new much improved guidance on PPE on Thursday 2nd April. This was clear that care at home staff and other care workers should have access to masks and eye protection so they can make real time risk assessments and don the appropriate PPE when this is needed. We hoped this would bring swift change on the ground, in too many cases this has not happened yet. This exposes UNISON members and the public they care for to unnecessary risk. UNISON will continue to push that all key workers have access to the PPE they need.


Dawn MacDonald, Branch Secretary, Highland Healthcare UNISON today said “Carers no matter whether employed by the NHS, council, voluntary organisations or the private sector should have the right to protect themselves, patients and others from cross infection. If all carers do not have access to the proper PPE the inevitable consequence will be we will have staff go off sick, thus reducing the very staff pool we need to care for the most vulnerable people in our communities. We have seen already the tragic death of a care at home worker in West Dunbartonshire, we must do all we can to minimise risks to all staff and that is UNISON’s top priority at present locally and nationally.”



Added 26 February 2020



UNISON Scotland’s largest public service trade union today announced that it will be holding a March and Rally in Lochgilphead on Saturday 21st March to save Knapdale Ward, Argyll & Bute’s inpatient dementia assessment ward. On 24th February the Argyll & Bute Health & Social Care Partnership announced a brief engagement exercise with the public which they are calling consultation. The outcomes are predetermined and the exercise is primarily about informing the community of the planned closure of Knapdale Ward.

UNISON is today launching a bulletin urging the community to participate in the consultation and to argue in favour of their proposed Option 4 - Development of Knapdale Ward to provide Inpatient Assessment / Respite / Day Care / Outpatients Services/ an Information Hub & Community Team Base; alongside the development of enhanced Community Teams.

Speaking today Dawn Macdonald, UNISON NHS Highland Convenor for Argyll & Bute said ”The option 3 passed by the HSCP’s Integrated Joint Board on the 29th of January is not patient centred and is in fact budget centred. It is a sad day when finance comes before patient care. Option 4 for me is truly patient centred and will support keeping our loved ones with dementia who need hospital care, for however long, in our community. Not miles and hours away from family and friends.”

Belinda Braithwaite, whose husband was cared for on Knapdale Ward, today said, “Undoubtedly, the best place for most of us to be is at home; the provision of planned Respite, Day Care, Home carers and emergency respite can be a lifeline as families, often elderly themselves, manage increasing issues, as best they can at home.”

“There is a relentlessness in caring for a loved one with Dementia, all day, every day, adapting to the “new normal” as the disease progresses. “

Belinda continued “Some Dementia patients, a minority, but in Human Rights terms, a number for consideration, develop more complex needs such as aggressive outbursts, delusions and hallucinations – some of which can be ameliorated with medication. Thus, some patients will need specialist in-patient care either short or long term. My husband, in the last 3 years of his life, was cared for with skill, dignity and compassion on Knapdale, 12 miles from home and I was able to visit daily.”

“Currently, Mid-Argyll, Kintyre and the Islands have no Day Care Provision, no specialist Dementia Care Home Provision, limited Respite Provision and no ‘very sheltered’ housing. And if the IJB goes ahead we will have no specialist in-patient provision either. Their Community Dementia Teams proposal does not address the need for infrastructure, this is a retrograde step.”

“Knapdale could be readily repurposed to provide the infrastructure that is clearly needed, to be part of a rounded service for a condition that is increasingly prevalent in our aging population.“

Simon Macfarlane, UNISON Regional Organiser said today “Over 3000 people have signed a petition supporting the Argyll & Bute HSCP retaining Knapdale Ward, that and the lobby we held of the IJB on 29th January encouraged them to enter in to further consultation. It is disappointing that the consultation sets out on a predetermined basis. However, as the community has shown through the petition and our lobby the people of Argyll & Bute don’t let their vital services go quietly.”

Simon continued “We are calling on people to go along to the consultation and argue for the retention of inpatient services and the enhanced community service which our purposed option 4 represents. The bulletin we have published today, which we intend to circulate widely, gives people the info they need to oppose this austerity driven service cut. People should also contact their councillors and MSPs to call on them to make representations to the IJB to Save Knapdale Ward.”

Added 27 January 2020

5 December 2019

NHS Highland Makes Big Payout in UNISON LGBT Case

NHS Highland has made a five figure payout to UNISON member Vicky Walker following UNISON supporting Vicky in taking a case complaining about discrimination on the grounds of her sexual orientation. The case was handled by Thompsons Solicitors for UNISON. Following judicial mediation NHS Highland agreed to make the five figure payment, issue an apology and write to Vicky’s former colleagues warning of the consequence should there be a failure to adhere to the NHS’s stated expectations and values with regards to colleagues and former colleagues.

Speaking today Simon Macfarlane, UNISON Regional Organiser said “It is good that UNISON was able to support Vicky Walker during what was a horrible experience for her as an employee of NHS Highland and then when this continued after she left their employment. It is regrettable we had to pursue litigation in this regard which was stressful for Vicky; meant justice was delayed and ultimately has cost the NHS considerable sums of money. Time and time again senior management refused to step in on this case and instead stood behind unacceptable practice. This is a pattern we see all too often in NHS Highland and have yet to see evidence of changed behaviours post the Sturrock report.”

Simon continued, “This case shows the importance of being in a union and having access to support and legal representation. UNISON is committed to fighting for LGBT equality in the workplace and society. Vicky is to be commended for taking a stand and showing such perseverance. We hope this settlement will at last provide some closure and allow her to move on with her life.”

Vicky Walker today said “This marks the end of an incredibly difficult two years during which I suffered relentless harassment and victimisation while working for and since leaving NHS Highland. The decision to pursue litigation was not an easy one however I felt I had to try to ensure my situation was not repeated for any other employee. I am encouraged that NHS Highland wish to learn from my experience and have acknowledged the systemic failures by both HR and management. I hope they can now take the necessary actions to ensure the safety of LGBT employees and their allies within their organisation.”

Vicky continued “I would like to thank UNISON for their unwavering support and commitment to LGBT rights; I would not have been able to pursue justice without them. Lastly I would like to thank my family and friends but especially my former NHS colleagues and those members of the Mull community who have stood resolutely on the side of fairness and equality in spite of some challenging and hostile circumstances. It has been a hard journey but I am content that justice has finally been delivered.” 

Elspeth Drysdale of Thompsons Solicitors today said “Cases of discrimination against LGBT employees are on the increase. It takes enormous courage to challenge these behaviours through the courts. We’re delighted that, with the support of UNISON, Ms Walker got the justice she deserves. We can only hope that her bravery in speaking out will change the culture at NHS Highland and prevent the same thing happening to others.”

19 November 2019





Dawn Macdonald, UNISON Convenor for Argyll & Bute in NHS Highland today said “UNISON is today formally launching a petition to save Knapdale Ward and dementia services in Argyll & Bute. Knapdale Ward is  a Dementia Assessment Ward at the Mid Argyll Community Hospital & Integrated Care Centre in Lochgilphead. It has been closed to new admissions for months. UNISON is launching this petition to prevent the full closure of Knapdale Ward and to call for its reopening to new admissions. There are currently ongoing proposals regarding the future of our dementia services within Argyll & Bute, UNISON is standing up for these crucial services and believes given Argyll & Bute’s aging population we need to see an expansion not retraction of dementia services. We believe there are ways ward and community services can be enhanced to provide a better service to patients and their families. Reopening the ward to new admissions must be the starting point for this.” 


Dawn continued “We are only today widely publicising the petition. Yet already with very limited publicity the petition has gathered over 1,400 signatures. This is fantastic and shows the huge support there is for Knapdale ward and well resourced fit for purpose dementia services in Argyll & Bute. NHS Highland and Argyll & Bute Health & Social Care Partnership must listen to this level of concern and move swiftly to reopen Knapdale to new admissions.”


The petition is at




Dawn MacDonald can be contacted on 07584 503799

Simon Macfarlane, UNISON Regional Organiser 07703 194132


Simon Macfarlane

Regional Organiser



17 January 2019




The contract for TV/internet services for patients at Raigmore is coming to an end in June 2019.  UNISON is calling on NHS Highland to ditch these unfair and excessive charges, and find a way to provide the service either free or at the very least at a much reduced cost.


Janette McQuiston, UNISON Branch Secretary said:  “This contract coming to an end provides a major opportunity to do away with the excessive charges – as high as £9.90 a day – for TV and internet services.


Patients may well be unable to afford these charges, and we say that the service should be provided free of charge to patients, or at the very least, much cheaper. 


We are also asking NHS Highland to explore providing free Wi-Fi access for patients and visitors to the hospital.


Our members are telling us that these charges often provoke comment and difficulties for patients.


We know that the income for this does not go to NHS Highland, but we are calling for an end to this private profit-making at the expense of often vulnerable and elderly NHS patients.”


Janette explained “We have written to the Board Chair David Alston on this, and expect that we can work together to find a solution to this issue.  You can also show your support by signing our petition, which is available at:





19 November 2018


Allegations of bullying in nhs highland


This morning UNISON along with other health unions met with the Scottish Government to discuss the allegations of bullying within NHS Highland.  It was a positive meeting and agreement was reached that an independent  review be established.

UNISON also welcomes the fact that a need for additional independent HR support for NHSH was agreed, which will provide additional capacity to investigate new cases of alleged bullying which have been identified.

We were also clear at the meeting that UNISON and other unions need to be involved in terms of our ability to present information to the independent review.

We are also pleased at the fact that it was agreed that the review would proceed "at pace but without haste", in the words of Shirley Rogers from the Scottish Government, and expected to start before Christmas.  UNISON looks forward to being involved in the review going forward.



10 July 2018



About 50 people enjoyed a family fun-day run by UNISON to celebrate 70 years of the NHS.  The party took place at County Community Hospital in Invergordon on Saturday afternoon – despite a certain football match taking place at the same time!


Families enjoyed the lovely weather, and made the best of the attractions on offer, which included a magician, face-painting, and the bouncy castles.


UNISON’s Vice Chair, Anne Campbell, who organised the event said “It was a great way to mark the NHS 70th birthday.  It was a sunny day full of fun, and the free ice cream went down particularly well.”


(For more pics see "Gallery")

4 July 2018


Help UNISON celebrate the NHS’s 70th birthday


Our NHS is 70 years old this month and to celebrate UNISON Highland Healthcare Branch have organised a family fun session in the grounds of County Community Hospital Invergordon.   This is free for the children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews of UNISON members.


Branch Secretary, Janette McQuiston, said “We think it’s really important to celebrate the 70th birthday of this vital public service, which has been a part of all our lives for a long time now, but is very much still alive and kicking!  We wanted to celebrate and mark this important anniversary in a fun way.  There are UNISON NHS 70th birthday cakes being shared with staff in a number of different wards and hospitals in the NHS Highland area, but we also wanted a focussed event for members and their families.  Good weather is guaranteed!”


The fun starts at 2.00 pm until 4.00 pm on Saturday 7 July and we have a great afternoon planned, which will include:


Bouncy castles

Children’s magician

Face painting

Party food

Soft drinks for adults

Birthday cake


Tickets are available from Anne.campbell8@nhs.net  or 07818 002374.


Keep your ticket to swap for a free ice cream from the Alness ice cream van.


--- copy ends ---




FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Anne Campbell, UNISON Highland Healthcare Vice Chair. Telephone 07818 002374



UNISON Highland Healthcare, 53 Shore Street, Inverness, IV1 1NF

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