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NHS Tayside chairman steps down with immediate effect

The Health Secretary had urged Professor John Connell to quit amid fresh revelations about the health board’s finances.

The chairman of NHS Tayside has stepped down after ministers were forced to intervene in the running of the health board.

Health Secretary Shona Robison had called for Professor John Connell to quit after it emerged NHS Tayside had apparently used donations to fund new technology.

Ms Robison thanked Prof Connell for his “personal probity” but said it was the right thing to do to move the health board forward.

She also described the position of chief executive Lesley McLay as “untenable” after being forced to exercise ministerial powers of intervention.

In a statement Prof Connell said: “It has been an absolute privilege to provide leadership to NHS Tayside over the last 30 months; I am acutely aware of the outstanding efforts of all staff to deliver safe and effective healthcare to the population of the region.

“I have always maintained a focus on safe patient care and ensuring staff are supported to deliver that at all times. I am very pleased that this has not been compromised during a difficult financial period.

“I believe that NHS Tayside is set on the correct course to transform its services and maintain safe health and care for Tayside. I know that my successor will have the support of a superb group of healthcare professionals in taking this forward.”

Earlier this week it emerged that NHS Tayside took more than £2 million from its endowment fund – which is made up of donations from the public or bequests in wills – to cover general running costs, which could normally be funded from its core budget.

The health board, which was bailed out with a Scottish Government loan of £33.2 million in 2016-17, was reported to have used the endowment fund when “faced with a funding deficit” in 2013-14.

It was further claimed NHS Tayside had to temporarily suspend its constitution to allow this to happen, as the money was going to retrospectively fund projects already approved by the board.

Shona Robison must now consider her own position as she has serious questions to answer Labour's Anas Sarwar

Prof Connell had earlier said the projects that were funded “were appropriate for endowment funding” but that he was seeking further assurances.

Last week NHS chief executive Paul Gray told MSPs he expected NHS Tayside would require further brokerage cash from the government of between £9 and £12 million.

Meanwhile a review carried out by accountants Grant Thornton found that since 2012 the health board had “misrepresented” its financial performance by “holding” £5.3 million that had been allocated by the Scottish Government for eHealth initiatives.

The health board’s director of finance Lindsay Bedford was suspended and an internal investigation launched shortly before he decided to retire earlier this year.

Opposition parties focused their criticism on Ms Robison, with Tory health spokesman Miles Briggs saying the government had “lost control of our NHS”.

He said: “After 11 years of Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP centralisation and mismanagement it will clearly now suit incompetent ministers to blame NHS senior management for the failings and financial difficulties which we have seen across the board. Perhaps it’s time they started to look closer to home.”

Scottish Labour’s Anas Sarwar said: “This is not an isolated incident – there has been a series of incidents over a number of years, reflecting a complete lack of leadership and mismanagement of our NHS by the SNP minister.

“Shona Robison must now consider her own position as she has serious questions to answer.”

Lib Dem Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “Tayside has been limping along for years and the Health Secretary must apologise for the government’s failure to get to grips with this.”

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