Official interference

Written by Tom Freeman on 7 July 2017

There was an interesting exclusive in The Times this morning which revealed Audit Scotland had been put under pressure to tone down the "alarmist" tone of its report last year on the financial state of the NHS in Scotland.

"This is the behaviour of a control freak SNP Government rattled by its own shortcomings," Conservative health spokesman Miles Briggs said.

As far as I can see however, the interference wasn't actually by ministers but officials. NHS chief executive Paul Gray wrote to Auditor General Caroline Gardiner in person, calling her report "incorrect".

Director of health finance Christine McLaughlin objected to the language in the draft report, calling it "subjective, alarmist and sometimes clumsy".

In the final version of the report the word "struggled" was kept, despite protestations.

"NHS boards struggled to achieve financial balance in 2015/16, and many used short-term measures to break even," it said. 

To hear public servants accuse another of subjectivity is quite something, and the real story here. No one would deny the NHS has considerable financial challenges, but there is some disagreement, clearly, on how well the system is coping with those challenges.

Meanwhile if Briggs were to become Health Secretary, it would be Gray and McLaughlin he would be working with. Would he expect the same protection of his record?

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