Shona Robison defies calls to quit over NHS Tayside crisis

Health secretary Shona Robison chats with head of nursing Brendan Forman and senior charge nurse Diane Gardiner while visiting Perth Royal Infirmary
Health secretary Shona Robison chats with head of nursing Brendan Forman and senior charge nurse Diane Gardiner while visiting Perth Royal Infirmary
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Health secretary Shona Robison defied calls for her resignation as opposition MSPs attacked her handling of revelations that charity cash was used by NHS Tayside to pay for routine services.

Ms Robison was also urged to review the “skills” of NHS Tayside board members as pressure mounted on her over her local health board’s finances.

Opposition MSPs said the public had “lost confidence” in the health secretary and the MSP for Dundee City East as she came to Holyrood to make a statement on the controversy.

NHS Tayside transferred £2.7 million from its endowment fund into core expenditure. More than £2m was spent on an IT system. Labour’s Jenny Marra said she was “concerned” about governance on the NHS Tayside board.

“We now need a full review of every board member at NHS Tayside to ensure they have the requisite skills to prevent a breach like this every happening again,” Ms Marra said.

Ms Robison said matters of corporate governance were for NHS Tayside’s new chair John Brown and new chief executive Malcolm Wright. She said a “robust process” was in place to investigate health board finances. She also said there was no suggestion so far that other boards had used endowment funds in the way Tayside had.

Ms Robison said the Office of the Scottish Charities Regulator (OSCR) had launched an inquiry into allegations of “possible misconduct” concerning NHS Tayside’s endowment fund. She has also overseen a change of management of the beleaguered health board. In her statement, Ms Robison said Tayside had so far had received £45.3m in Scottish Government loans.

But earlier Labour’s health spokesman Anas Sarwar mounted a fierce attack on the health secretary, saying the controversy was her “mismanagement” and her “failure”.

Turning to Ms Robison, Mr Sarwar said: “The leadership of our NHS, cabinet secretary, is you. You have let down NHS staff, you have failed too many patients. You have breached the trust of the public and this has happened on your watch in your local health board. This is your mismanagement and your failure.

“The sad reality is that the public have lost confidence in this cabinet secretary and this cabinet secretary has lost control of her brief. Therefore will the cabinet secretary do the decent thing and at the very least withdraw herself from this investigation, if not withdraw herself from this portfolio altogether.”

Ms Robison responded by saying OSCR was leading the investigation and was best placed to examine the issue.