MORE than one in three doctors in Scotland claim bullying and harassment is a problem in their workplace, according to a survey of nearly 1000 medics.

It comes after the launch of a QC-led investigation into claims by senior doctors that NHS Highland’s leadership has presided over a “culture of fear and intimidation” for the past decade which they say has silenced criticism about issues affecting patient care.

Read more: NHS Highland medics blast 'culture of fear and intimidation' 

Now the results of a survey of 999 doctors by BMA Scotland, published today, suggests that the problem may be more widespread.

It reports that 38% of respondents believe bullying and harassment is an issue in their hospital department or GP practice, but a quarter of doctors also said they would not feel confident reporting such behaviour.

In addition, 91% of doctors said they are working over their allotted hours and 93% said they are often or sometimes fearful of making a medical error.

The majority (72%) also said they felt targets are prioritised over quality of patient care.

Read more: Fears of bullying culture flagged by NHS Highland executive in 2012

Dr Lewis Morrison, a consultant geriatrician and chair of BMA Scotland, said: “The evidence from this survey simply reinforces the deep concerns that our members repeatedly express.

"It is clear from the results that there are simply not enough doctors to deliver the quality care we all strive to provide.

“Doctors are fearful of making mistakes and then being blamed for them – despite being overworked and in a system under too much pressure.

“It is also clear from this survey that bullying, and harassment of doctors continues to be far too prevalent.”

It comes as Health Secretary Jeane Freeman condemned bullying as an “abuse of power”, adding that it was “utterly unacceptable” - especially in the NHS.

Speaking during a Scottish Parliament debate into the NHS Highland bullying scandal, Ms Freeman said it was vital that a QC-led review into claims of a “culture of fear and intimidation” at the health board got to the root of the problem.

She said: “What is clear is that while we do have policies and procedures in place, underneath that people feel either unable to speak up or if they do speak up, are closed down.”

Read more: Former NHS Highland medics say bullying drove away staff and put patients at risk  

The Scottish Government has commissioned QC John Sturrock to carry out a review into the NHS Highland allegations and report back in early 2019.

It follows a letter to the Herald in September from clinicians who described a “culture of fear and intimidation” emanating from “the very top” of the organisation. Since then, hundreds of alleged bullying victims have come forward.

Highlands MSP Edward Mountain, who tabled the debate, said the “huge turnover” of non-executive directors at the health board in the past five years “should have been a flag” to the Scottish Government that something was wrong.