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by Ruaraidh Gilmour
12 March 2024
Jason Leitch to leave national clinical director post

Jason Leitch | Credit: David Anderson

Jason Leitch to leave national clinical director post

National Clinical Director Jason Leitch is to leave his post. 

Leitch, who was one of the most senior figures in the Scottish Government’s response to the Covid pandemic, will leave the role at the end of April. 

He was often seen side by side with former First Minister Nicola Sturgeon during daily Covid briefings.   

A dentist by training, Leitch began working for the Scottish Government in 2007 as the national clinical lead for safety and improvement. Last year, it emerged he had deleted WhatsApp messages during the pandemic, something he said had been “a pre-bed ritual”.

Leitch later described this as “an exaggeration” and said he “didn’t daily delete my WhatsApp”. 

When asked about the message, he said: “My position is, as I have just described to you, that I tried to do today's work today, and if I could assure myself that that work had been managed and dealt with, then I deleted the informal messaging that had led to that moment. 

“But this was a flippant exaggeration in an informal messaging group, and it wasn't done every day before I went to bed.” 

The Scottish Government said arrangements for the post will be set out in due course. 

Leitch said: “It has been an enormous privilege to carry out this role and work closely with colleagues across the health and care sector in service of the patients, their families and carers. The NHS and social care system does remarkable work every day, and I am immensely proud of the teams I have had the privilege of being part of. 

“The ongoing success of the Scottish Patient Safety Programme is globally recognised and has significantly improved the safety and reliability of care in many ways. The Covid pandemic was an unprecedented challenge for all countries and I am proud of my colleagues inside and outside government for their incredible work. It was a privilege to be able to communicate with the public so directly and be part of that coordinated response, and I will forever be grateful for the public’s attention and willingness to follow the guidance - it saved lives. I have decided to look for new challenges across health and care after a break, and to spend more time with the charities I work with. I wish colleagues well for the future.” 

First Minister Humza Yousaf said: “Jason Leitch has made a fantastic contribution to the health of the nation, leading work to reduce hospital-acquired infections and improve the quality of care in the NHS. The enduring success of the Scottish Patient Safety Programme is testament to his work. He played a huge role in helping me and fellow Ministers navigate the Covid pandemic by providing advice to help reach the best decisions, and by communicating so well with the public. I of course wish him every success in the future.”

Leader of the Scottish Conservatives Douglas Ross posted to X: “Jason Leitch's position was clearly untenable following revelations that he treated deleting his WhatsApps as a ‘pre-bed ritual’.  

“Serious questions still remain for Humza Yousaf over why ministers and senior officials deleted their pandemic messages, despite promising not to.” 

Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie said: “I thank Jason Leitch for his service as National Clinical Director during some deeply difficult times and I look forward to welcoming the new National Clinical Director to the role in due course.

“Questions still persist over Jason Leitch ’s actions during the Covid-19 pandemic and regarding the ongoing fallout from the Eljamel scandal in NHS Tayside.

“Every effort must be made to ensure that the Scottish public get the answers that they deserve.”

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