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by Ruaraidh Gilmour
29 June 2023
FMQs: Humza Yousaf grilled over a public inquiry into NHS Tayside scandal

Humza Yousaf has said a public inquiry into the NHS Tayside scandal is not off the table | Alamy

FMQs: Humza Yousaf grilled over a public inquiry into NHS Tayside scandal

Humza Yousaf has been grilled over whether he will grant a public inquiry into botched surgeries by a former surgeon over a decade ago while working for NHS Tayside.

At First Minister’s Questions Douglas Ross told the first minister that Professor Sam Eljamel, who is believed to have harmed hundreds of patients, left them “scarred, broken, and devastated”.  

The Tory leader told Yousaf that Theresa Mallett, a victim of the disgraced doctor who interrupted his speech at the SNP’s independence convention at the weekend is “demanding a public inquiry” into the doctor’s actions while working for the health board.  

Ross added that when the first minister was health secretary, he “refused to grant one”. Yousaf, who has agreed to meet with Mallett next week, said that a public inquiry “is not off the table”.  

Yousaf explained why the Scottish Government has not committed to a public inquiry to date. He said: “We all know a public inquiry would take some years, therefore, is there a way of getting answers victims of Professor Eljamel want, can we get that sooner?

“The second reason is because Professor Eljamel is not in the country, he is practicing as a doctor elsewhere overseas. The likelihood of him cooperating is very low, therefore, would a public inquiry be able to get the answers?”

But Ross argued that the quicker an inquiry is set up, the quicker victims will get answers, adding that “we shouldn’t be letting Professor Eljamel off by assuming he won’t cooperate”. He pointed out to the first minister that the disgraced surgeon is not the only person involved in the scandal and other NHS workers and victims need to be heard from under oath.  

Yousaf added that he, predecessors, and the current cabinet secretary have engaged on the issue, noting that “a range of actions have been taken to learn the lessons”. But he added that the tragic actions lie with the “disgraced surgeon”.

The Tory leader cited an FOI that was published by the Scottish Government this morning detailing minutes from a meeting between the surgeon and the NHS Tayside board which appear to “let him off scot-free” while blaming junior doctors.  

The focus turned towards health secretary Michael Matheson’s engagement with the cross-party group of MSPs that met with him to discuss the issue in April, in which he promised an update on the situation in May, according to the Tory leader. But that is yet to happen, with Matheson saying he “will look to do so in the coming weeks”.  

Ross, not accepting the response of Matheson, demanded he write to the cross-party group today before the parliament goes into summer recess.  

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