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Scottish ministers signal that there are no plans to merge NHS Grampian and crisis-hit Tayside

Scottish Health Secretary Shona Robison (centre)
Scottish Health Secretary Shona Robison (centre)

Health Secretary Shona Robison has signalled that the Scottish Government has no plans to merge NHS Grampian with the crisis-hit Tayside board.

Concerns have been expressed in recent weeks that ministers could use the controversy at the Dundee-based board to order a major shake-up of the health service.

Former Health Secretary Alex Neil called for a merger of NHS Grampian, NHS Tayside and NHS Fife, as part of a move to scrap the nation’s 14 health boards and replace them with three “super-boards”.

He was speaking after NHS Grampian’s chief executive Malcolm Wright was drafted in to help run crisis-hit NHS Tayside last week, following the departure of its senior managers amid a mismanagement row.

Ms Robison was quizzed by Liberal Democrat Alex Cole-Hamilton on the move as she updated MSPs on NHS Tayside’s woes yesterday.

Appearing to rule out any imminent amalgamations, she said: “On merging of boards, Alex Cole-Hamilton will be aware that we have been working towards having more regional planning and towards boards working across boundaries, but form should follow function.

“The important thing is that people realise the benefits of regional working and working across board boundaries, rather than focusing on organisational change.

“To be frank, that would take up the efforts and attention of senior leadership teams that need, in Tayside, to be focused on getting the board back on track and restoring public confidence.”

Ms Robison also moved to ease concerns about the use of endowment funding by other boards, including NHS Highland, after it emerged that NHS Tayside took £2.7million from its charity pot to spend on routine costs.

NHS Highland’s endowment funding was highlighted amid the controversy after it emerged that £1million from the Archie Foundation was used to help redevelop the Raigmore Hospital children’s ward, although the board insisted the move was in line with the endowment fund’s constitution.

Ms Robison said: “At the moment there’s nothing to suggest that the endowment funds of other boards have been used in a way that Tayside used theirs.”

All NHS boards have been asked to give an assurance that their charitable funds have been used appropriately by the end of the month, and these will be passed to the Office of the Scottish Charities Regulator (OSCR), which is already looking into the Tayside case.

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