A SENIOR manager at a troubled Scottish health board reduced colleagues to tears and forced staff to walk out of their jobs, an employment tribunal was told.
Staff were afraid to be left alone in a room with Dr Tina McLelland because of her mood swings, a witness claimed at the hearing in Edinburgh.
Others complained about the manager’s “clenched teeth” and “staring and glaring”.
Dr McLelland, who was involved in managing clinical trials for NHS Lothian, is taking the board to a tribunal for unfair dismissal.
She was suspended from her job in December 2010 and sacked the following month but denies the bullying allegations, insisting they came as a “bolt out of the blue”.
NHS Lothian was the subject of a recent independent review ordered by Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon which found the board had an “inappropriate management culture” originating from the top level.
Dr McLelland held the post of Research and Development Governance Manager, on a salary thought to be in the region of £50,000. Her work involved approving the financing of clinical trials.
Her manager, Dr Christine Phillips, gave evidence on the first day of the hearing.
Dr Phillips, the deputy director of NHS Lothian’s research and development board, said she had been approached by three members of staff in November 2010 who said they found McLelland “completely frustrating” to work with.
She told the tribunal: “Never in my working life have I had three people come up to me, within the space of a week, with so many examples of bullying behaviour.
“They felt threatened, bullied and intimidated by Tina.”
Dr Phillips said she investigated the allegations, interviewing Louisa Wilson, who worked in the research and development department with Dr McLelland.
Dr Phillips said: “As the interview progressed she became very upset. She sobbed at one point. Louisa said she had never been treated like this before, it was very distressing to watch.
“Louisa said Tina was loud, hyperactive, moved quickly and displayed abnormal behaviour.”
Ms Wilson became increasingly alarmed by her behaviour, which she also described as “manic and irrational”.
Dr Phillips said she was told by Ms Wilson: “Tina wanted everyone to fall out with each other – she physically threatened me, leant in to me and stared at me with clenched teeth, staring and glaring.”
The witness said she also interviewed Fiona Sloan, a clinical trials supervisor with the University of Edinburgh, who previously worked under Dr McLelland.
Ms Sloan told her: “Everyone knows what Tina is like. You don’t want to be in the offices with Tina alone. I had to be strong and not let her get the better of me.”
Dr Phillips said she had conducted an exit interview with another member of staff, called Lisa Herd.
According to Ms Herd, Dr McLelland suffered from such bad mood swings that she would “go red in the face”, “become aggressive” and “intimidate” members of staff.
Miss Herd complained to Dr Phillips that staff had left the department and complained about the doctor in the past.
But nothing had been done, and that she had been allowed to continue with her “bullying” behaviour.
Dr Phillips said she confronted Dr McLelland with the allegations.
She told her “anyone can show emotions” and claimed Ms Herd “did not respect her as a person”.
Dr McLelland told Dr Phillips she was a “hard task master” but said she was “disappointed” the complaints had been made and said they were a “bolt out of the blue”.
The hearing continues.
Last month’s independent study of NHS Lothian said interviews with staff depicted an organisation where being bullied was common at certain levels.
It said the management styles described by staff, and a number of alleged incidents highlighted during interviews and focus groups, could be described as “creating an undermining, intimidating, demeaning, threatening and hostile working environment for some staff”.
The troubled health board has also been rocketed by waiting list scandals, with more than 72,000 patients currently waiting longer than they should do for treatment.
It emerged earlier this week that patients medical records and personal details would be passed on to private hospitals in a bid to cut down on waiting list times