The appointment of a new chief executive at NHS Highland has been welcomed by an MSP who expects him to be busy from day one.
Highland MSP Edward Mountain welcomed the news that Stornoway native Iain Stewart is to take over from Elaine Mead at the end of the month.
Her seven-year tenure was marred by alleged bullying and financial mismanagement accusations.
Mr Stewart believes that being a local – as a resident of the Black Isle – will work in his favour while his experience of delivering what he called “transformational leadership” will help the board out of its current crisis.
He said: “Living locally has given me the opportunity to experience first-hand the great care provided by some of my 10,000 plus new colleagues and I’m sure that working together we can all make a difference to our patients, carers and the wellbeing of our workforce; I am committed and focused on doing the right things for our patients and colleagues alike.”
A NHS Highland spokesman described Mr Stewart as having an “exceptional track record” and Mr Mountain believes he will need every bit of that experience.
He said: “On his first day the new chief executive will find a huge amount of issues in his in-tray from the ongoing bullying inquiry to the long-running recruitment problems and the need to improve waiting times across NHS Highland.
“All these issues and more must be resolved as a matter of priority along with the full implementation of Sir Lewis Ritchie’s report into health care on Skye as well as the approval of a redesign of health care in Caithness which has the backing of the community. I welcome the appointment.”
This week Highlands Labour MSP David Stewart also rasied the issue of figures showing an increase in waiting times at Highland A&E departments.
Statistics from ISD Scotland, the NHS’s own data service, reveal that 3600 patients in the NHS Highland area faced a wait of more than four hours for treatment after turning up at accident and emergency last year. That is a rise of more than 12 per cent, from just over 3100 in 2017.
In the same 12 months 194 patients waited more than eight hours – a rise of almost a third – with the only fall coming in those waiting more than 12 hours, which fell by a third to 12 patients.
Mr Stewart, Highlands and Islands MSP and Scotland’s shadow minister for health, said: “I have been concerned about the pressures on NHS Highland for some time and these figures expose the scale of the challenge NHS staff face in delivering patient care and how badly they have been let down by years of SNP mismanagement of our NHS.
“Increasing numbers of people waiting too long at A&E reveals unacceptable pressure in other parts of our health service, such as in social care and primary care.
“Ministers set the health service targets for staff to hit and then do not deliver the support and resources needed. It simply isn’t good enough.”
A spokesman for NHS Highland said the numbers of patients presenting for treatment was continually growing.
“For April to December 2017, the total number of attendances in accident and emergency hospitals was 47,967 and for April to December 2018 this rose to 49,972 – an increase of 2005 with an equivalent performance,” he said.
“There are a number of reasons for patients to spend longer than four hours in emergency departments, including high pressure on receiving beds into the hospital or clinical complexity of individual cases.
“The reasons leading to long patient waits in the emergency department are recorded and scrutinised on a daily basis in order to help continually develop and improve our systems to improve patient flow.
“Where possible, patients that are potentially attending for inappropriate reasons are re-routed to the correct pathway eg community pharmacist, NHS24 or their GP.”