NICOLA STURGEON was pressed to intervene and save failing mental health services at a Scottish health board today after the publication of a damning report earlier this week.
At First Minister’s Questions, the SNP leader was pushed to commit to a swathe of measures at NHS Tayside.
The independent inquiry into mental health services in the region found a culture of “fear and blame,” with more than 50 suggestions made about how to make improvements.
Scotland’s Labour leader Richard Leonard asked Ms Sturgeon whether her government would step in at the health board and put in place “special measures” to ensure implementation of the recommendations.
He said: “NHS Tayside has a history of evading scrutiny, deflecting criticism and resisting change.
“They have repeatedly ignored recommendations from Healthcare Improvement Scotland and the Mental Welfare Commission.
“Will you today instruct your Cabinet Secretary to re-escalate NHS Tayside’s mental health services so that your government steps in to drive the transformation of mental health services in Tayside?
“First Minister, will you do the right thing?”
Ms Sturgeon said she offered her apologies to all families who had been let down by the NHS.
She added: “The Scottish government will continue to take the action that is already under way and we will consider all suggestions.
“We will continue to monitor the progress of NHS Tayside through the Tayside Oversight Group, which is a vital part of the picture here.
“As I said, the Mental Health Minister will keep Parliament updated and we have proactively asked David Strang to review this after a year and to provide an update into the progress that has been made.”
Bosses at the health board aim to get rid of 1,300 posts to plug the hole in its finances, official papers revealed.
They say they can do that over several years through “natural staff turnover”, but it is feared cuts to backroom staffing will have an impact on patients.
The decision to shrink the workforce comes as the board benefits from having at least £62 million of debt written off by the Scottish Government.
The plans are revealed in an assurance report to the board from September.
It said there was an “acceptance that staff levels need to reduce by 10%”.
Gillian Murray, who has been campaigning for better mental health services after failings in the care of her late uncle, said the decision shows that “balancing the books obviously means more to them than saving lives”.
“People in Dundee are dying because NHS Tayside is a shambles and to cut the workforce is another slap in the face for all of us,” she added.
Murdo Fraser, the Conservative MSP in Perthshire, said: “Local people will be wondering what impact these massive reductions in staff will have on their already pressured services.”
Annie Ingram, NHS Tayside director of workforce, said no one will lose their job but said spending on the workforce is higher than health boards of a similar size.
She added: “We are carrying out a review of staff numbers, grades and skills, which is being carried out in partnership with our staff and our trades unions, to ensure we have a safe, affordable and sustainable workforce.”