Scandal-hit health board criticised over awards

NHS Lothian's flagship hospital, the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. Picture: TSPLNHS Lothian's flagship hospital, the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. Picture: TSPL
NHS Lothian's flagship hospital, the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. Picture: TSPL
A CRISIS-stricken health authority caught up in a waiting times and bullying scandal has been heavily criticised after it nominated itself for prestigious public relations awards.

NHS Lothian nominated itself as Scotland’s public sector team of the year, despite a waiting times scandal that saw inaccurate information manipulated to make it appear thousands of patients had not waited beyond a 12-week target for treatment.

The authority, which was also caught up in staff bullying allegations, is in line for a total of three awards in the competition run by the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR)

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Patient groups and politicians last night claimed it was “inappropriate” for NHS Lothian – Scotland’s second biggest health board – to win any prizes for communications excellence in the wake of the scandals.

Margaret Watt, chairperson of Scotland Patients Association, reacted angrily to the board nominating itself, saying management was congratulating itself for failure.

She said: “It’s inappropriate. Why give any awards to them when there are so many problems and waiting lists are so bad?

“Patients wouldn’t vote for them to have awards.”

The health campaigner added: “They should give staff a pay rise instead of patting themselves on the back like this.”

Labour public health spokesman Dr Richard Simpson said the board’s handling of the waiting lists scandal was “a failure within its communications” operation. He also criticised NHS Lothian’s involvement in the CIPR awards, where bookings for tables at the glamorous awards ceremony at Glasgow’s Grand Central Hotel later this year cost over £1,000.

Dr Simpson said: “The record of top management on hiding waiting lists and bullying at NHS Lothian should mean that they adopt a more low key approach. A lot of NHS patients will be offended by this.

NHS Lothian has nominated its corporate communications team for the top internal communications campaign, which involved promoting energy efficiency. The same team was put forward for an award for best internal publication – the NHS Lothian newspaper Connections. It is on the shortlist for both prizes as well as one for the public sector team of the year.

Stuart Wilson, NHS Lothian director of communications and public affairs, tweeted yesterday “Congrats to my brilliant team @NHS_Lothian on being shortlisted in CIPRScotland awards. Shame on those criticising it on political agendas.”

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The health board was found to have deliberately fiddled waiting lists last year, while a subsequent report found that a “undermining, intimidating, demeaning, threatening and hostile working environment” existed in areas of the service.

Alan Boyter, director of human resources at NHS Lothian, insisted those nominated for awards “deserve to be recognised for their efforts”.

He said: “It has been a challenging period for the organisation but this should not detract from the many exceptional achievements of our staff.”