LOTHIAN Labour MSP Neil Findlay is demanding the resignation of two senior figures in NHS Lothian over “deceit and political machinations” surrounding the review of children’s services at St John’s Hospital, Livingston.
Mr Findlay called for health board chairman Brian Houston and chief officer of acute hospital services Jim Crombie to quit in light of what he claimed were “damning revelations” about Scottish Government intervention to pressure NHS Lothian into delaying publication of the review findings until after the Scottish Parliament elections in May.
Correspondence released under Freedom of Information legislation included an e-mail in which Mr Crombie complained of being “bumped” into agreeing a timeframe by government health officials that would have seen the review – being carried out by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health – held back until after the poll.
Publicly, NHS Lothian has always insisted the timetable is a matter for the royal college.
In another memo Mr Houston dismisses a “river of e-mails” about St John’s, saying: “I’m not bothered and I don’t think we should pay them any heed.”
Mr Findlay said: “The deceit and political machinations of senior management at NHS Lothian has been truly shocking.
“I’m genuinely saddened people in charge of running the NHS across the Lothian region seem to think it’s all right to mislead patients, their families, staff and their elected representatives over the timings and delays to the review of paediatric services.
“They have clearly been ‘got at’ by the Scottish Government and went on to play political games to prevent the people of West Lothian from knowing the truth about what might happen to the children’s ward before the Scottish elections.
“This is politics of the worst sort and the NHS Lothian chairman and senior officers have been caught bang to rights.
“That is why I’ve called for the resignations of Brian Houston and Jim Crombie. I’m not comfortable making this call but I truly believe it is the only course of action as their deceit and actions mean many people will not believe a word they say in future.”
Mr Houston, chair of NHS Lothian, said: “This is about safety and the health and wellbeing of children not politics. No decisions have been taken.
“We categorically refute suggestions anyone has been deliberately misled by us. We commissioned an independent expert review to ensure this.
“It’s taken longer than we hoped to set up the review and we’ve been upfront about this at our board meetings and the St John’s stakeholder group.
“The fact this has pushed the review into the pre-election period is unfortunate but a fact and, as a public body, we have to be governed by the rules around this.
“The NHS Lothian team has followed due process and the RCPCH review team now require time and space to focus on completing the review.”