Something had been niggling in the back of my head regarding recent allegations of supposed health service closures in Inverclyde: why did NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGGC) include such devastating measures in a draft document, yet not include even a mention of those measures in the final document – even if it was to say those plans were no longer taking place?
It seems ludicrous. A draft document considers closing several vital services in Greenock & Inverclyde, with suggestions that the plans were already underway, yet there is zero reference to them in the final publication for public consultation & review. The very act of leaking the document is a direct contravention of the NHSGGC’s Board Member’s Code of Conduct:
3.11 There may be times when you will be required to treat discussions, documents or other information relating to the work of the body in a confidential manner. You will often receive information of a private nature which is not yet public, or which perhaps would not be intended to be public. You must always respect the confidential nature of such information and comply with the requirement to keep such information private.
3.12 It is unacceptable to disclose any information to which you have privileged access, for example derived from a confidential document, either orally or in writing. In the case of other documents and information, you are requested to exercise your judgement as to what should or should not be made available to outside bodies or individuals. In any event, such information should never be used for the purposes of personal or financial gain, or for political purposes or used in such a way as to bring the public body into disrepute.
What is going on here?
First of all, this isn’t new. The draft document was originally revealed to the press by Jackie Baillie (yes, that Jackie Baillie) all the way back in January. The Health Secretary Shona Robison responded then:
Health Secretary Shona Robison said: “This draft discussion paper for the Board’s Directors was written prior to the Scottish Government’s budget being put forward in December, when a substantial increase in NHS funding was announced.
“We’ve already substantially increased funding for all health boards, with NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde’s budget increasing by 21.3 per cent under this Government. Since this paper was written a further rise was announced in the draft budget that will give the board a record budget of £2,078.9 million.
“Absolutely none of the points in the paper have been formally put forward for consideration. Any major service change would need approval from the Scottish Government and we’ve received no requests from the board.
“We’re clear with health boards that they need to design services that meet the needs of the local population. We have been consistently clear that we are committed to maintaining and improving services at both the Royal Alexandra Hospital and Vale of Leven – for example, including sustaining emergency services at the Vale.
“In this context, all boards, like all public sector organisations are expected to ensure they run services as efficiently as possible. Health boards are able to reinvest all money they save into front line services.
“We are also conscious that we need to up the pace on transferring services to the community as we push forward the radical integration of health and social care. That is exactly why we are investing some £250 million in this area in next year’s budget – of which Glasgow will receive their proportionate share.”
There is nothing new in the most recent report, by the same reporter, for the same newspaper – save for comments by Stuart McMillan:
Mr McMillan — who branded the leaking of the confidential document as ‘irresponsible’ — said: “This draft discussion document was published in November 2015.
“It now appears to be re-circulated prior to next week’s election. NHSGGC has stated that the draft discussion paper is not a definite proposal, let alone an approved plan that the health board plans to implement.
“The paper was written prior to the Scottish Government’s budget being put forward in December, when a substantial increase in NHS funding was announced.
“Since this paper was written, a further increase was announced in the budget that will give the health board a record budget of £2.07 billion.
“The SNP Government have already substantially increased funding for all health boards, with NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde’s budget increasing by 27.2 per cent under this Government.”
In a further general comment, Mr McMillan said: “The SNP will put almost £2bn of additional spending into expanding community services by the end of the parliament, boosting cancer services, supporting health and social care, increasing specialist, GP and nursing staff and building five new treatment centres across the country.”
He added: “The irresponsible nature of leaking a draft discussion document is not helpful to anyone let alone the morale of the staff. Furthermore, it only causes a situation where people may choose to go elsewhere for a service if they believe services are to be scrapped.”
Why is a three-month-old story being presented as if it’s a shocking new development, especially considering it is less than a week until the Scottish election?
It’s worth noting who it is that wrote these proposals in the first place. It was not the Scottish Government, but the NHSGGC. The board membership of the NHSGGC can be found listed here. A couple of those names will be very familiar to the people of Inverclyde.
The first is Joe McIlwee. Mr McIlwee was elected in 2007 as Councillor for Ward 4 (Inverclyde South) in Inverclyde, and has been a member of Inverclyde Council since then. Stuart McMillan has been asked what he knew about the draft document – I think it’s worth considering what Mr McIlwee knew about it, given he was a member of the board for the organisation which wrote the draft in question – and thus, made the proposals to shut down vital services.
Mr McIlwee is not the only councillor on the board – Maureen Devlin, Matthew Kerr, Alan Lafferty, Mark Macmillan, and Michael O’Donnell are also members. That 6 of the 26 board members of NHSGGC are serving councillors is one thing – that they are all members of the same party is quite another. Indeed, Mr Macmillan is the leader of his council. This is, of course, because they are representing their respective councils of Inverclyde, South Lanarkshire, Glasgow, East Renfrewshire, Renfrewshire, and East Dunbartonshire, which are covered by the Greater Glasgow and Clyde health board area – and all of which are led by the same party.* Once again, perhaps it’s worth wondering what those 6 councillors knew about the draft document, being members of the board themselves, where Stuart McMillan is not.
The second is someone I’ve mentioned on the site before – Ross Finnie. Mr Finnie was also a long-serving councillor in Inverclyde from 1977 to 1999. While Duncan MacNeil represented Greenock & Inverclyde as part of the Scottish Executive from 1999 to 2007, Mr Finnie was a minister, a member of the cabinets of Donald Dewar, Henry McLeish, and Jack McConnell. He is one of the two longest-serving Scottish Cabinet members (so far), the other being Mr McConnell himself. Mr Finnie, along with Mr McIlwee, is also an appointed member of the Inverclyde Integration Joint Board: Allan Macleod was appointed by NHSGGC.
Now consider: six members of the board are active elected representatives of a political party, which are also the councils of areas included in the NHSGGC remit, who will in all likelihood hope to be re-elected next year. One of the six is a currently-serving councillor in Inverclyde. Another is a former Inverclyde councillor, MSP and minister of the Scottish Executive. And one more is a member of the Integration Joint Board. All are members of the NHSGGC board, which is the ultimate source of the leaked document. If anyone with political influence in Inverclyde could have known first-hand about these alleged closures – which, again, are not in the final published document, and thus are not planned – it would be those individuals. It is beyond reason to suppose that they were unaware of the contents of this draft when they wrote the final publication. The draft was published in November 2015, over half a year ago.
So you tell me: why is this being brought up again, less than a week before a major Scottish election, when this information must have been known to Inverclyde councillors six months ago? If these measures were indeed taken seriously enough to merit inclusion in a draft, why is there no mention of them in the final document, and why were no requests made to the Scottish government? If the councillors did not know about the draft at the time, why were they unaware of the contents of a draft for something as important as a Financial Projections and Financial Planning Process document – and if they did know, then what was their role in these plans?
Is it political naivete, or just a serious error in judgement?