Tom Waterson: Union chair and giant in NHS healthcare, Tom Waterson, has died

Tributes have been paid after the sudden death of one of Scotland’s leading champions of its NHS staff.

Thursday, 9th September 2021, 12:57 pm
Updated Thursday, 9th September 2021, 3:51 pm

Tom Waterson, a senior figure in the Unison union and employee director at NHS Lothian, died suddenly last night at the Royal Infirmary in Edinburgh after developing pneumonia.

Starting as a porter at the old Royal Infirmary 31 years ago, the father of two’s contribution to public service has been described as ‘immense’.

As well as his work for the NHS, he represented UNISON at local, Scottish and UK level.

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Tom Waterson: Union chair and giant in NHS healthcare, Tom Waterson, has died

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He was a shop steward with the National Union of Public Employees (NUPE), before it amalgamated with the National and Local Government Officers Association (NALGO) and the Confederation of Health Service Employees (COHSE) to form UNISON in 1993.

As a doughty - but fair and reasonable - champion of the interests of the health service workforce, Tom was known and respected from the ‘shop floor’ to the board room.

In an email sent round employees, Calum Campbell, chief executive of NHS Lothian said: “Our thoughts are very much with his family.

"I have been in touch with his wife this morning to offer her our condolences.

"We will in due course, plan a fitting tribute to Tom.”

Willie Duffy, UNISON Scotland head of health added: “Tam had been in and out of hospital over the last two years, and he showed great courage during these times.

“Everyone at UNISON Scotland is shocked and our thought and prayers are with Pamela, and their children Aeden and Erin at this difficult time.

“Tam was a committed socialist, trade unionist and strong campaigner he will be terribly missed.”

Friends, admirers and former colleagues of Mr Waterson have also taken to social media to express their grief with one saying: “So sorry to hear about Tom .

"A wonderful man and very passionate about the causes he believed in.

"He will be missed hugely by all that ever had the pleasure to meet him.

"Thoughts are with his family at this very sad time.”

Another added: “Tam will be greatly missed an inspiration as a trade unionist and more so as a man R.I.P.”

A minute’s silence was held in tribute by health and council colleagues at a virtual meeting after the news was announced on Thursday.

A virtual meeting of Midlothian Integration Joint Board (IJB), at which Mr Waterson was a regular attendee, was told NHS Lothian staff had been informed of the father-of-two’s death earlier in the day.

Carolyn Hirst, IJB vice-chair, led tributes to Mr Waterson, who lived in Bonnyrigg.

She said: “He was a long serving member of the NHS beginning as a porter. Thoughts are with his family.”

Wanda Fairgrieve, IJB staff representative, said Mr Waterson’s death had come as a shock but he had been dealing with health issues over the last two years.

She said: “He lost a leg and developed sepsis and was admitted to hospital several times but he kept himself going.

“He leaves behind a lot of friends and colleagues as well as his wife and children, aged 11 and five, and all our thoughts are with his family.”

The board held a minute’s silence before moving into business.

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