St John’s Hospital review FoI response raises questions

Holyrood is reviewing children's services at St John's. File picture: Lisa Ferguson

Holyrood is reviewing children's services at St John's. File picture: Lisa Ferguson

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THE Scottish Government has been accused of an attempted cover-up over the review of ­children’s services at St John’s Hospital Livingston after it refused to reveal correspondence under a Freedom of Information request

Lothian Labour MSP Neil Findlay lodged the same FoI request with the government and NHS Lothian.

But while the health board responded with around 250 pages of documents, the government handed over only two copies of a single letter it had sent to local MSPs. Mr Findlay said the huge disparity suggested the government had not provided anywhere near the level of information that it could or should have.

The government claimed in its response to him that no further documents could be made available because it would inhibit “free and frank” advice or exchange of views or it contained personal information.

Based on the e-mails, letters and briefings released by NHS Lothian, Mr Findlay has accused the government of deliberately delaying publication of the review’s findings until after the Scottish Parliament elections in May.

He claimed the documents showed NHS Lothian had gone along with the government’s desire for no conclusions to come out before the May 5 poll.

And he accused the board of misleading patients, families, staff and elected representatives over timings.

Mr Findlay claimed the government’s response to his FoI request showed it was also trying to cover up information.

He said: “The complete lack of information provided to us by the Scottish Government offers strong evidence that they are more intent on concealing rather than sharing information.

“If it was left solely to the Scottish Government no information about the delays to the paediatrics review would have come to light and people would have had no idea about the role of the government in pushing for that delay until after the election in May.”

He added: “The failure to provide any information is a slap in the face to the people of West Lothian and exposes their lack of transparency and openness in providing important information to the very people they serve.”

Last month the government refused Mr Findlay’s request for a ministerial statement on the review from Health Secretary Shona Robison in the Scottish Parliament, which would have allowed MSPs to quiz her directly.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “The Scottish Government is committed to openness and transparency and dealt with this request fully in line with FoI guidance.

“We are clear that the timing of the independent report on paediatrics is and always has been, a matter for NHS Lothian – as the material released demonstrates.”

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com