Calls for investigation after Labour Health Spokeswoman Jackie Baillie admits blanket claim false

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By G.A.Ponsonby 
 
Labour Health Spokeswoman Jackie Baillie is facing calls to apologise after admitting to making false claims against a Scottish NHS Hospital.
 
Local MSP George Adam has written to the leader of the Scottish Labour party, Johann Lamont, urging an investigation after Ms Baillie told a Labour conference that patients at Paisley’s Royal Alexandra Hospital had been forced to share blankets because of SNP cuts – a claim she subsequently admitted was false.

By G.A.Ponsonby 
 
Labour Health Spokeswoman Jackie Baillie is facing calls to apologise after admitting to making false claims against a Scottish NHS Hospital.
 
Local MSP George Adam has written to the leader of the Scottish Labour party, Johann Lamont, urging an investigation after Ms Baillie told a Labour conference that patients at Paisley’s Royal Alexandra Hospital had been forced to share blankets because of SNP cuts – a claim she subsequently admitted was false.

In his letter, also sent to NHS GGC Chief Executive Robert Calderwood, Mr Adam claimed that NHS workers deserved an apology from Ms Baillie.

Urging Scottish leader Johann Lamont to take action, Mr Adam wrote: “I am writing to you to urge an investigation into why Scottish Labour’s health spokesperson Jackie Baillie continued to make false allegations about an NHS hospital despite the health board confirming they were untrue.

“The false claims about NHS patients sharing blankets in the Royal Alexandra Hospital in my constituency were refuted, with proof provided, several weeks ago by the Greater Glasgow and Clyde health board.  Yet Ms Baillie continued to assert them – and even later admitted to the Sunday Herald that they were wrong.”

He added: “I am urging Labour to make an immediate apology, to those who work tirelessly to ensure they deliver the best health service possible, to reassure them that at no point have patients been forced to share blankets.”

In a speech to Labour party delegates in Dundee on Saturday Ms Baillie said: “And the SNP can’t even get the basics rights.  In one hospital, in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, patients are even having to share blankets because of the cuts.”

Within hours, a spokesperson for Greater Glasgow and Clyde (GGC) hit back pointing out that the claims had been addressed weeks ago and had been proven false.

“This matter was raised with us a few weeks ago, and we were able to provide proof that there was no truth in this claim.

“Extra blankets are available in all our hospital as and when patients need them.” said the spokesperson.”

A spokesman for the Labour MSP hit back at GGC and implied a cover-up by the board and said: “If the Health Board tries to cover this up rather than deal with it, that is an extremely serious matter.”

However, on Sunday Ms Baillie was reported to have admitted the claims were false.  In an article in the Sunday Herald, the journalist wrote:

“Baillie later admitted that this claim was wrong: no patient had been left without their own blanket, only that some patients wanted more blankets.”

Mr Adam said the false claim had generated: “significant – inaccurate – media coverage which has caused needless alarm among staff, patients and their families across my constituency.”

The SNP MSP pointed out that it wasn’t the first time Ms Baillie had made claims against NHS staff that had subsequently turned out to be without foundation and he added:

“This is not the first time Ms Baillie has made totally baseless allegations against Scotland’s health service.  In December, she tried to pass off “new figures” for infection rates as ones gathered under the SNP, when in fact they were collected in 2005/06, when Labour were last in power.”

Ms Baillie had issued a press release that was broadcast by BBC Scotland just after new year in which she claimed that Scotland had the worst hospital infection record in Europe.

On January 3rd Ms Baillie faced calls to apologise after a press release, issued by her and attacking the SNP’s record on hospital infections, was exposed as being out of date and used data from a time when Labour were in office.

The press release issued by Ms Baillie claimed that official figures showed that Scotland was now the “superbug capital of Europe”.

Ms Baillie claimed that research from the Scottish Parliament Information Centre showed that Scotland had the highest rate of bugs in Europe, hitting 9.5 per cent.

Speaking on BBC Scotland, Ms Baillie said: “Being the superbug capital of Europe is an accolade no country wants.

“These figures show that, despite recent progress, the SNP government still has a long way to go in the battle against healthcare-associated infections.”

However, it emerged that the data had been collated in 2005/6, at a time when Labour were in power at Holyrood.

Official statistics released in October last year showed that cases of MRSA and MSSA were in fact at their lowest level since records began.

The bogus claim resulted in both Scottish Labour and BBC Scotland’s actions being condemned by an independent statistics watchdog.

Mr Adam, SNP MSP for Paisley and a Member of the Scottish Parliament’s Public Audit Committee, said:
 
“To knowingly make incorrect claims in her conference speech beggars belief.  She should be ashamed of herself for talking Scotland’s health service down yet again.
 
“Ms Baillie knew her allegations were wrong as NHS GGC had addressed them weeks before.
 
“I have written to Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont, asking her to investigate these remarks and apologise to the staff of the Royal Alexandra for her health spokesperson’s false statements.
 
“Ms Baillie is a repeat offender in smearing Scotland’s NHS. It was only in December she tried to pass off “new figures” for infection rates as ones gathered under the SNP, when in fact they were collected in 2005/06, when Labour were last in power.
 
“And this follows her infamous “Winter Watch” campaign last year, which had nothing to do with improving the NHS, and everything to do with her finding new ways to talk down the NHS and its hard-working staff.
 
“She must explain why she made an assertion in her conference speech which had already been comprehensively rebutted by the Health Board several weeks before.

“This is not only disrespectful to our health professionals – it has caused alarm among patients and their families.  Labour’s health spokesperson should instead be acknowledging the hard work and dedication of our NHS workforce.”