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Nicola Sturgeon urged to take action over health board accused of 'cover-up, secrecy and denial'

Nicola Sturgeon urged to take action over health board accused of 'cover-up, secrecy and denial'

Nicola Sturgeon has been urged to sack the leadership at Glasgow’s beleaguered health board after they were accused of “cover-up, secrecy and denial” over the death of one of her closest aides. 

Former Scottish Government communications chief Andrew Slorance died in December last year, after contracting Covid while in the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital for cancer treatment. 

Speaking to the BBC today, his widow, Louise, said the hospital did not tell her that he had also caught, aspergillus, a deadly infection while in their care. 

She said: "I think somebody and probably a number of people have made an active decision not to inform his family of that infection, either during his admission or post-death."

"The impact of the health board hiding the fungal infection will have lifelong impacts on all members of our family, including five children.

"The reason? To protect a building, a health board and political decision-making."

It’s the latest scandal to engulf the hospital. Earlier this year police launched a criminal investigation to look into the deaths of a number of patients, including 10-year-old Milly Main.

She was diagnosed with leukaemia in 2012, and died in 2017 after contracting stenotrophomonas at the hospital - an infection found in water.

A separate public inquiry which is probing the building of several Scottish hospitals is also being held.

Asked if Nicola Sturgeon had confidence in the leadership of the Greater Glasgow and Clyde health board, the First Minister’s official spokesman declined to answer.

Slorance was head of the Scottish Government's response and communication unit, which was responsible for its handling of the Covid pandemic.

The 49-year-old went into hospital at the end of October 2020 for a stem cell transplant and chemotherapy as part of treatment for Mantle Cell Lymphoma (MCL). He six weeks later. 

His case was raised at First Minister’s Questions by Labour leader Anas Sarwar. He said that despite a number of failings at the hospital, nobody had yet been held to account. 

He asked Sturgeon: “Why, despite everything that has happened, do we still have a culture of cover up, secrecy and denial, with families being forced to take on the system to get the truth?”

The First Minister said her officials had already been in touch with the hospital.

“I will not, and this government will not, tolerate cover-ups or secrecy on the part of any health board. And where there are concerns about that we will address those concerns,” she promised. 

Sarwar listed the hospital’s failings: “Water reports ignored, deadly building flaws, patients getting infections, wards closed, patient deaths, staff bullied and silenced, an independent review, a case note review, a public inquiry, criminal investigations, continued failings, continued cover ups and families still having to go public to fight the system to get the truth. Enough is enough.

“This is the worst scandal of the devolution era and in any other country in the world there would be resignations and sackings.

“How many more families have to lose loved ones before anyone is held to account?”

He said the health board leadership had lost the confidence of clinicians, patients, parents and the public: “Given everything that has already happened and everything that has already been uncovered, why is this health board leadership in Glasgow still in place?”

The First Minister said the public inquiry was operating independently of ministers, but there was no objection on the part of the government for it to widen its remit to look into any of the issues relating to Slorance’s case. 

She said the government would not pre-empt outcomes: “These are serious issues and they deserve to be treated as serious. On the substance of the issues, the public enquiry is doing that work right now and the findings and any recommendations that flow from the public inquiry absolutely should be, must be and will be acted upon but I think it's incumbent on all of us who care about these issues, and I now that includes all of us, to allow that public inquiry to do its work.” 

In response to the BBC, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said: "We are sorry that the family are unhappy with aspects of Mr Slorance's treatment, details of which were discussed with the family at the time.

"While we cannot comment on individual patients, we do not recognise the claims being made.

"We are confident that the appropriate care was provided. There has been a clinical review of this case and we would like to reassure the family that we have been open and honest and there has been no attempt to conceal any information from them."

Read the most recent article written by Andrew Learmonth - Slate wiped clean: SNP's 87th annual conference could be its most collegiate in years

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