Published: 09/05/2002, Volume II2, No. 5804 Page 8

A Scottish NHS board has defended publishing a strategy which spells out how managers can 'spy' on staff they believe are breaking the law.

Lanarkshire board was accused of using 'big brother' techniques to keep an eye on staff after it prepared a surveillance strategy.

The document describes how some covert operations might work and suggests staff might be used to gain information from suspect colleagues.

Jim Devine of Unison described the process as 'unacceptable', saying it smacked of a 'big brother, one-party state, keeping their eyes on what the staff and the workforce are doing'.

But Lanarkshire board said it was only acting in accordance with Scottish Executive guidelines prepared in response to the UKwide Regulation of Investigatory Care Act 2000. 'This actually protects the privacy of staff and protects their human rights. It is in accordance with national guidelines, ' a spokesperson said.

The Scottish Executive confirmed it had sent out guidance nine months ago. 'This strengthens the rights of staff, particularly their right to privacy, ' said a spokesperson.