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Highland MSP slams First Minister for not agreeing to meet NHS Highland staff and patients


By Scott Maclennan


Edward Mountain MSP speaking in the chamber during a debate on Future Rural Policy and Support in Scotland.10 January 2019. Pic - Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament.
Edward Mountain MSP speaking in the chamber during a debate on Future Rural Policy and Support in Scotland.10 January 2019. Pic - Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has refused to meet with staff and patients at crisis-hit NHS Highland after being called on to do so by a Highland MSP.

Conservative Edward Mountain’s request was rebuffed at First Minister’s Questions on Thursday after what was another turbulent week at the health board.

Last week, chief executive Ian Stewart left his position after just one year to be replaced by Paul Hawkins from NHS Fife – the third in 15 months.

GMB Union also repeated claims, first made to the Inverness Courier back in September, that bullying was still rife within the health board.

Then the cabinet secretary for health Jeane Freeman let it be known that a highly unpopular policy telling bullying victims to sue the board was not satisfactory.

Mr Mountain said: “In the last four years at NHS Highland we’ve seen a botched service redesign, a radiology crisis, a bullying scandal, budgets that never balance, delays in the construction of the elective care centre, and now the appointment of a third chief executive officer in 15 months.

“On a daily basis I am contacted by frustrated medical staff telling me of their latest problems that they are facing.

“Will the First Minister take the time to come to the Highlands and meet with me and some of the doctors, nurses and patients that have been so let down?”

But the First Minister made no promises she would meet with NHS Highland staff and patients and instead blamed London despite health being a devolved matter.

Ms Sturgeon said: “The health secretary will be meeting NHS Highland in the Highlands on February 10, I look forward to visiting in the future myself.

“We will continue to work with NHS Boards to support them and the challenging job that they do to deliver services. And our Health Boards deliver excellent services to the vast majority of people in Scotland day in and day out.

“But again, anybody who thinks that our health service has been immune from Tory austerity in the last ten years really needs to think again, so perhaps Edward Mountain could also help us in putting more pressure on his Tory colleagues, who have told us that austerity is going to end and yet yesterday we see that the Chancellor is trying to force five per cent cuts across Whitehall as well.

“So let’s stop the austerity, let’s stop the cuts coming from Westminster, and that would be one good thing that the Tories could do to help our National Health Service.”

Mr Mountain slammed that response: “The culture of bullying and the issue of NHS governance are problems which are the full responsibility of this Scottish Government. For the First Minister to claim any different is wildly inaccurate and inappropriate.

“We’ve seen crisis after crisis in NHS Highland in the last few years and the least the First Minister could do is meet with doctors, nurses and patients who feel they have been let down.

“The fact that the First Minister will not meet staff and patients with me shows her government’s complete disregard for the health care challenges in the Highlands.”



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