St John’s Hospital review: SNP ‘trying to hide the truth’

Neil Findlay is furious that the Scottish Government rejected his bid for a debate into the St John's row. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
Neil Findlay is furious that the Scottish Government rejected his bid for a debate into the St John's row. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
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THE Scottish Government has been accused of arrogance after refusing a request for a ministerial statement at Holyrood on the controversial review of children’s services at St John’s Hospital, Livingston.

Lothian Labour MSP Neil Findlay – who claims a trail of emails shows the government has deliberately delayed publication of the review’s findings until after the Scottish Parliament elections in May – had asked for Health Minister Shona Robison to give an official update in the chamber on the situation, which would allow MSPs to quiz her directly on the review.

But the government has dismissed Mr Findlay’s request, saying it would be wrong to “pre-empt” the review being carried out by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health. This comes after staffing shortages led to temporary closure of the children’s ward in the summer.

Mr Findlay obtained a whole series of correspondence between the Scottish Government and NHS Lothian after making a Freedom of Information request.

He claims it shows the board has gone along with an attempt by the Scottish Government to delay publication of the review report until after the elections, and he has accused the board of misleading patients, families, staff and elected representatives over timings.

Mr Findlay made his request for a ministerial statement via the parliament’s cross-party business bureau.

But a reply from an aide to the Minister for Parliamentary Business, Joe Fitzpatrick, said: “I have sought the view of ministers, who consider the outcome of this independent review must not be pre-empted and it would be wrong to speculate on what the review may suggest.”

The reply went on to say any major change in services would require NHS Lothian to carry out “full formal public consultation” and ultimately obtain ministerial approval.

It added: “This issue has been raised at First Minister’s Questions and there have been further opportunities to do so, including Labour Party business.”

But Mr Findlay said: “This is absolutely shocking arrogance from the SNP government.

“They are trying to hide the truth about the future of the ward by kicking it into the long grass after the election and don’t even have the respect for staff, patients and families to answers questions about the timing of the review in parliament.

“There are serious questions about why this report has been delayed and Shona Robison should come before parliament to do so.”

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com