New leadership at NHS Tayside "will make difference"

9 April 2018, 17:18

Shona Robison MSP

The new leadership team sent into struggling NHS Tayside by ministers will "make a difference", the Health Secretary has insisted.

Shona Robison said she had been "concerned" after it emerged the health board had used public donations to fund new technology.

Those revelations prompted the resignation on board chairman, Professor John Connell, with the Greater Glasgow health board boss John Brown now installed in the job on an interim basis.

Ms Robison said the new leadership team was meeting on Monday, adding: "I expect them to work on a recovery plan to get NHS Tayside back on track and make sure there is no impact on patient services and importantly to restore public confidence.

"It is going to take some time but they need to restore confidence in their ability to do that. I believe the interim chair and chief executive have the right skills and the right experience, they will bring the skillset that is required to the job in NHS Tayside.

"I have confidence they will be able to make a difference in making sure NHS Tayside gets back on track and that public confidence is restored and there is no impact on patient services, which out of everything is the most important thing here."

Financial problems meant NHS Tayside had to be bailed out with Scottish Government loans totalling £37.5 million between 2012-13 and 2017-18.

NHS chief executive Paul Gray recently told MSPs he expected it would require up to a further £12 million of brokerage cash.

But last week it emerged the health board used more than £2 million from its endowment fund - which is made up of donations from the public or bequests in wills - to cover general running costs, which could normally be funded from its core budget.

This was said to have happened when the board was "faced with a funding deficit" in 2013-14, with NHS Tayside forced to temporarily suspend its constitution to do this as the money was going to retrospectively fund projects already approved.

Ms Robison, the MSP for Dundee East, said: "Before the change of leadership we had taken a lot of action to support NHS Tayside, we sent a transformation team in, we've given them additional funding through brokerage arrangements.

"However after the latest revelations around the use of endowment funds, I took the judgment that a change of leadership at the top of NHS Tayside was required.

"At the end of the day my job is to make sure that NHS Tayside gets back on track and that they are given the support to do that.

"Public confidence and patient satisfaction in the NHS is at an all time high, what is important is whether that is in Tayside or anywhere else, is that we make sure the NHS continues to deliver the fantastic service that it does.

"And actually in NHS Tayside it delivers a fantastic service to patients, patients get a very, very good service, but these issues have detracted from NHS Tayside's ability to do that and that was why new leadership was required at top of the organisation."

Former health secretary Alex Neil suggested part of the problem was "the current governance structures in the health service aren't working as effectively as they need to be".

Instead of having 14 regional NHS boards for Scotland, there should be just three "very strong" health boards covering the country, he suggested.

But Ms Robison said greater regional planning by boards meant there were already "three regional structures emerging, one in the north, one in the east and one in the west".

She added: "That is requiring boards to cooperate and share services, share expertise, and to work together across boundaries in a way they've never done before.

"My only concern about focusing boards purely on structural change is that that is what they will focus on, and in Tayside what they need to focus on is getting the finances back on track and restoring public confidence, rather than focusing solely on organisational change."