Let’s do nothing

3
542

Kenneth Roy

SR campaign 1
After six months of hostilities, we are getting wise to the stratagems of NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, the unelected public body which wants to downgrade St Margaret of Scotland Hospice to a care home while pretending that this will not destroy the ethos of the hospice at a single devastating stroke.

Kenneth Roy

SR campaign 1
After six months of hostilities, we are getting wise to the stratagems of NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, the unelected public body which wants to downgrade St Margaret of Scotland Hospice to a care home while pretending that this will not destroy the ethos of the hospice at a single devastating stroke.
    Last weekend, after a period of silence to allow ‘discussions’ between the health board and the hospice management to proceed unimpeded, we finally concluded that these discussions were going nowhere, indeed worse than nowhere, since the board is now determined to undertake a further 12-month inquiry into palliative care provision in the west of Scotland followed by the usual public consultation and leisurely decision-making process. As we pointed out, by the time all this is accomplished the grant-funding for the hospice will have expired.
     Was this really what the cabinet secretary for health, Nicola Sturgeon, had in mind when in mid-March she announced the opening of a ‘window of opportunity’ in negotiations? It is simply inconceivable that Miss Sturgeon believed that these negotiations would drag on for the rest of 2010, through the Scottish election campaign of spring 2011, and probably into the early months of 2012, leaving the hospice unable to plan its future, assuming it has any.
     All of Scotland’s political parties have declared their support for St Margaret of Scotland. Yet NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde appears to feel that it is able to subvert the general political will, to ignore one of the largest petitions ever to come before the Scottish Parliament (100,000+ signatures), and to undermine the authority of the cabinet secretary for health. It is an intolerable situation.
     As I say, we are getting wise to the stratagems of this board. But even we were unprepared for the latest tactic of the board – a unilateral attempt, following last week’s SR disclosures, to issue a ‘joint’ statement on behalf of NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and St Margaret of Scotland Hospice announcing in effect that all is well and that a further meeting of the two chairmen (Andrew Robertson for the board, Leo Martin for the hospice) will be held in October. The implication of the statement is that the hospice is content with the situation and is going along with the idea of a further prolonged period of uncertainty. Nothing could be further from the truth.
     Leo Martin, who is on holiday in the Western Isles, sent an urgent message to the board making it clear that it must not be issued as a joint statement and that it did not fairly represent the discussions between himself and Andrew Robertson. What happened then is unclear.
     I suppose we should no longer be surprised by the spin doctors at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, but this latest ploy almost defies belief.

SR campaign 2
Regular readers will be familiar with another of our long-running campaigns – for a more open and accountable public sector in Scotland in which the salaries and pension costs of all senior managers are published in the annual accounts of their organisations and not withheld, as they so often are, on the whim of individual executives. Half of Scotland’s NHS boards fail to publish complete accounts since members of the executive boards refuse to allow their remuneration to be made public. (I should say in all fairness that NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, whatever its defects otherwise, is one of the honourable exceptions.)
     Audit Scotland feebly maintains that it cannot force public bodies to publish the pay of senior managers. That being so, we decided to make NHS Shetland, one of the worst offenders, a test case and sent a freedom of information appeal to the Scottish information commissioner, Kevin Dunion. Mr Dunion has now been sitting on this request since 21 January. On 21 July (when SR will be on its annual holiday), it will be half a year since he received our request.
     Does it really take six months to decide whether NHS Shetland should be compelled to publish the salaries and pension costs of its management team? Or is this another example, rather like the hospice saga, of how delay is itself a tactic?
     We send regular prompts to Mr Dunion’s castle in St Andrews. In late April we were told that the manager responsible for our case had been delayed by the Icelandic ash but that we would not have to wait much longer. In early June, the ash had disappeared as an excuse and been replaced by an unexplained hold-up in the process; we were promised an outcome by the end of the month. It is now July; still no outcome. What next? Might the dog have eaten their homework?
     In the circumstances, we have decided to re-name Mr Dunion the lack of information commissioner.

Read Kenneth Roy in the Scottish Review.