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Sturgeon has 'complete disregard' for health challenges in Highlands, claims north MSP

By Gordon Calder

Nicola Sturgeon has shown "a complete disregard for the healthcare challenges in the Highlands", according to north MSP Edward Mountain.

He spoke out after claiming the First Minister snubbed his request to come and meet health staff and patients following what he described as "a tumultuous week" for NHS Highland.

Mr Mountain, the Conservative MSP for the Highlands and Islands, asked Ms Sturgeon to accompany him to meet doctors, nurses and patients who are feeling "let down". She said health minister Jeane Freeman is to meet with NHS Highland on February 10.

But the reply did not impress Mr Mountain. He pointed out the response came after a week in which a third chief executive was appointed in 15 months, the GMB union claimed bullying is still rife within the health board and its deficit for this year increased to £13 million.

Speaking at First Minister's Questions in the Scottish Parliament, Mr Mountain said: "In the last four years at NHS Highland we’ve seen a botched service redesign, a radiology crisis, a bullying scandal, budgets that never balance, delays in the construction of the elective care centre, and now the appointment of a third chief executive officer in 15 months.

"On a daily basis I am contacted by frustrated medical staff telling me of their latest problems that they are facing. Will the First Minister take the time to come to the Highlands and meet with me and some of the doctors, nurses and patients that have been so let down?”

Edward Mountain says there has been 'crisis after crisis' at NHS Highland. Picture: Andrew Cowan / Scottish Parliament
Edward Mountain says there has been 'crisis after crisis' at NHS Highland. Picture: Andrew Cowan / Scottish Parliament

Ms Sturgeon replied: "The health secretary will be meeting NHS Highland in the Highlands on February 10. I look forward to visiting in the future myself.

"We will continue to work with NHS boards to support them and the challenging job that they do to deliver services. And our health boards deliver excellent services to the vast majority of people in Scotland day in and day out.

"But again, anybody who thinks that our health service has been immune from Tory austerity in the last 10 years really needs to think again, so perhaps Edward Mountain could also help us in putting more pressure on his Tory colleagues, who have told us that austerity is going to end and yet yesterday we see that the Chancellor is trying to force five per cent cuts across Whitehall as well.

"So let’s stop the austerity, let’s stop the cuts coming from Westminster, and that would be one good thing that the Tories could do to help our National Health Service."

Afterwards, Mr Mountain said: "The culture of bullying and the issue of NHS governance are problems which are the full responsibility of this Scottish Government. For the First Minister to claim any different is wildly inaccurate and inappropriate.

"We’ve seen crisis after crisis in NHS Highland in the last few years and the least the First Minister could do is meet with doctors, nurses and patients who feel they have been let down.

"The fact that the First Minister will not meet staff and patients with me shows her government’s complete disregard for the health care challenges in the Highlands."

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