NHS boss issues public apology over St John’s Hospital comments

St Johns Hospital in Livingston
St Johns Hospital in Livingston

The chairman of NHS Lothian has apologised over controversial comments he made regarding the future of children’s services at St John’s Hospital.

Labour MSP Neil Findlay uncovered the emails under Freedom of Information and said the subsequent apology was “mealy-mouthed”.

The comments were made by chairman Brian Houston on an email to NHS Lothian chief executive Tim Davison about a “river of emails” arriving in his inbox from concerned residents over the future of the children’s ward.

After discovering they had been instigated by Neil Findlay, Mr Houston wrote: “I’m not bothered, and I don’t think we should pay them any heed.”

Paediatric services at NHS Lothian are currently under review after staff shortages at St John’s led to a temporary closure last summer.

Results of this review will not be made available until after the Scottish election in May and Neil Findlay claimed the emails show the board has gone along with a deliberate attempt by the Scottish Government to delay publication of the review’s findings.

He said: “This is a mealy-mouthed half apology from Brian Houston. The general thrust of their letter to me is unrepentant.

“Despite their protestations, it is clear that they have been got at by the Scottish Government and went along with the plan to delay the review despite the fact they themselves stated how such a delay could further jeopardise the wards’ future.”

In a letter to Mr Findlay, Mr Houston “categorically refuted” suggestions the board misled anyone. He insisted the timeline for the review was based on the availability of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health experts.

But he did say: “Regarding the 415 standardised and virtually identical emails I received, I agree that the language used in my email to the chief executive was unfortunate.”