BBC Scotland misreport deeply flawed research based on tiny (1.77%) self-selecting sample by novice researcher which provides NO evidence of a ‘bullying culture’ in NHS Highland


BBC Scotland’s hopelessly biased intellectually challenged and nasty reading of the report

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

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



5 thoughts on “BBC Scotland misreport deeply flawed research based on tiny (1.77%) self-selecting sample by novice researcher which provides NO evidence of a ‘bullying culture’ in NHS Highland

  1. Clydebuilt May 9, 2019 / 4:45 pm

    BBC Radio2 . . . 16.00 News

    Lead Story SNP Launch Euro Election Campaign hear the FM speaking

    BBC Radio Scotland . . . .17.00 News

    Lead Story Bullying at NHS Highlands

    As of 17.40 no mention of SNP EU election campaign

    Liked by 1 person

  2. rantingoldbagsblog2 May 9, 2019 / 6:28 pm

    Reminds me of the curse of the modern education world: people who don’t know the difference between bullying and people falling out.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Alasdair Macdonald May 9, 2019 / 9:23 pm

      Rantingoldbagsblog, you have made a point I was planning to make. I can recall a period when we had to attend ‘anti bullying training’ provided by a ‘consultant’, who might or might not have had a qualification in psychology. The training opened with the statement, “If someone claims he or she has been bullied, then he or she HAS BEEN BULLIED” (my emphasis). When this was queried, the reply was, “Why would someone say he or she has been bullied if it has not occurred?” When scepticism at this assertion was made, the triumphant response was “This is why bullying continues – the bullied person is not believed.”

      When we had discussions with pupils about bullying, almost all had a pretty good idea of what comprised bullying and were aware that there was a difference between ‘falling out’, which might well involve some nasty words or a shove or a slap or even a ‘doing’. Also, most pupils had a strong sense of fairness and would either intervene – with expressions of disapproval – or, more likely, would report what they had observed to teachers.

      Victims of bullying can become bullies themselves.

      Employees sometimes complain to their trade unions about bullying – and tightly so – but the same trade unions are sometimes guilty of ‘harassing’ managers or supervisors. It is interesting that a different word is used for what is, in effect, bullying. Managers and supervisors are often unsupported by senior management in such cases, often being faced with, “It’s part of the job, or, are you really cut out for this? or you’ll just have to learn to toughen up or get out”.

      Of course, the effects of bullying are nasty and allegations of bullying should be investigated thoroughly, and, often this reveals that the situation was more complex. Often, the act of investigation can resolve situations without assigning guilt or ‘punishing’ the bully. Most victims just want it to stop and do not want retribution.

      Liked by 2 people

      • johnrobertson834 May 10, 2019 / 5:45 am

        Yes, similar experience in HE. Anti-bullying regs become a charter for bullies to exploit.


  3. Alasdair Macdonald May 10, 2019 / 10:14 am

    The piece on Good Morning Scotland today (10, May) was interesting. The two GPs who had begun the campaign were pretty nuanced in their description and gave explicit credit to the minister, Ms Jeanne Freeman, for setting up the enquiry.

    However, the representative of the BMA immediately came out with ‘the tip of the iceberg’ assertion, knowing, of course, that the media will never challenge this and that it provides a never ending ‘grievance’ to be used to ‘harass’/bully the ‘management’ of the Health Board or the Government. They always use the word ‘management’ as an undifferentiated term which is by implication ‘bad’, despite the fact that there are many people within any organisation who perform essential managerial functions, without which the organisation could not do effectively what it was set up to do.

    Being a manger – at any level in an organisation – entails having power to compel things to happen and for those in the organisation to accept the right to exercise that power. However, such power is exerted within set parameters and is open to question.

    Sadly, in any organisation, some people can be tempted to adopt a position where they see their power as not subject to challenge. it is frequently tied to ego issues, which sometimes derive from the fact that some people are appointed to positions for which they are not particularly suited to and are in charge of people who can do the job better than they. (This has been recognised as ‘the Peter Principle’, which describes a tendency and not an inevitability – the belief that everyone in a management post is by definition, an ‘eejit’ or a ‘bampot’)

    It is this ego involvement which usually leads to some bullying within an organisation and, the higher someone is within an organisation, the more institutionalised it can become. As well as nastiness towards individuals it generally stifles creativity. However, weak management can also lead to power brokers emerging on the shop floor and such people are as prone to becoming bullies as those in management.

    Finally, one of the principle modi operandi of journalism is bullying. Most interviewers on TV, for example, are bullies. The persistent interruptions are a facet of this as is the ‘framing’ of the interview before the interviewee has the chance to speak. “Are you still beating your wife, Professor Robertson – YES or NO?


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