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11 February 2020
Scottish Government announces NHS Lothian interim chair

New sick kids hospital in Edinburgh. Image credit: M J Richardson

Scottish Government announces NHS Lothian interim chair

Esther Roberton has been appointed interim chair of plagued health board NHS Lothian, after former chair Brian Houston quit last month.

The board is currently under special measures for problems that led to the delayed opening of the new Royal Hospital for Children and Young People in Edinburgh.

Announcing the appointment, Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said Roberton was currently working as senior governor at the University of Aberdeen and had previously served as chair of NHS 24 and NHS Fife.

“Esther has considerable experience and a long-standing commitment to public service, and the social and economic development of Scotland,” Freeman said.

“She will play a significant role in helping to stabilise and transform the board and turn around performance, and I look forward to working with her as work continues to deliver the new Royal Hospital for Children and Young People and department of Clinical Neuroscience.”

Roberton’s appointment began on 10 February, and will continue until a substantive chair is appointed, or until 30 November.

Houston quit at the end of January, less than two weeks after NHS Lothian chief executive, Tim Davidson, announced his retirement.

It was reported that Houston had concerns about questions from the Scottish Government and NHS Lothian staff about the new sick kids hospital.

The board is currently at stage four of the NHS Board Performance Escalation Framework for specific issues related to the Royal Hospital for Children and Young People, and stage three for performance issues.

On Sunday, a cross party group of MSPs wrote to Freeman, asking her to reveal the circumstances that led to Houston’s resignation, and the reasons that the health board was under special measures.

“The NHS is a public service paid for by public money, and as Cabinet Secretary, you are accountable to parliament for it and your decisions relating to it,” the letter said.

“As Lothian MSPs, we are calling on you to disclose the circumstances that lead to Mr Houston’s resignation and the reasons why the board was put into special measures.”

In recent weeks, Freeman has come under fire for the high number of health boards that are currently under special measures, with Scottish Conservatives shadow health secretary Miles Briggs saying: “So many Scottish NHS boards are in special measures, it is hard to describe it as anything but a national emergency.”

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