Jeane Freeman says 'discussion to be had' about whether Scotland needs 14 health boards
Cabinet Health Secretary Jeane Freeman hinted at the possibility of changing the way NHS Scotland’s health authorities operate, at a Holyrood fringe event on Sunday evening.
Asked by journalist Pennie Taylor, at the Health and Care Hub Reception, “do you think we will have 14 health boards in the future?” Freeman said: “In this parliament, this is not the time to have that change, I need boards delivering against waiting times, improving the delivery of mental health, and I need to get on with producing a sick kids hospital that is safe and compliant.
“That said, I think there is a discussion to be had - in a country of this size, does it make sense to have 14 territorial boards and 31 health and social care partnerships?
“There is a discussion to be had about what happens there and how you do that. I also think there’s a discussion to be had about targets, how do you determine what a successful NHS is?"
Freeman added: “I think we need a conversation with the Scottish public that says, what is it that will tell you that the health service you are paying for is working?
“That conversation could start in the next year, leading into the 2020 election.”
Quoting Holyrood magazine’s annual review overview of health, Taylor asked “with so much fire fighting as cabinet secretary”, in dealing with incidents such as waste disposal and hospital infections, how Freeman managed to fit in long-term planning?
“I think you have to do both,” Freeman said.
“The health budget is 43 per cent of the Scottish Budget, that’s a lot of money and I need to make sure we’re using that as best as we can, and that we’re getting results.
“I do get sharper and quicker at spotting what might be relatively small just now, that might become a bigger thing.”
On the bullying culture in the NHS, Freeman said she would “personally appoint” the whistleblowing champions which are being recruited for each health board.
“They are directly accountable to me and they will have a direct route to me,” she said.
“This is to ensure people that if an individual at a health board feels what they are seeing isn’t good enough, they aren’t being listened to, then they have direct route to me as Cabinet Health Secretary.
“For me, if people have to blow whistles, that tells me the culture of an organisation isn’t working. Whether it’s complaints about bullying and harassment, ideas about improvement, if they feel they aren’t being listened to, or they’re being penalised from that, then the organisation is failing.”
Freeman continued: “I have powers to instruct, with the ability to persuade, and I need to use both.”