The Scottish National Party (SNP) has been accused of attempted to silence staff in the Scottish NHS in order to distance themselves from the chaos surrounding emergency health provision.
In an email seen by the Telegraph, a member of staff at the Scottish Government’s health department requested a letter be sent to all NHS boards advising them to stop talking to journalists about problems they were experiencing.
The health service in Scotland is run directly by the governing party in Holyrood, meaning that the left wing SNP would need to keep any failings in their services out if the press if they are to make political mileage from the crisis facing services across the UK.
The member of staff, Robert Williams, wants staff to wait until the latest statistics on the four hour waiting time target for Accident and Emergency services rather than talking about their current experiences while the media attention is focused on the situation.
In an email sent at 1647hrs to Phillip Couser, the director of public health and intelligence services for NHS National Services Scotland, Mr Williams wrote:
“We are seeing in the media that some NHS Boards are starting to provide journalists with management information on A&E 4 hour performance for the festive period.
“I think NHS Boards would welcome some advice on whether this is appropriate… A letter or email to boards tonight would help clarify the position for NHS boards.”
He said that official statistics on A&E services will start being published on a monthly basis in early February and Health boards should wait until then.
Scottish Labour’s health spokesman Jenny Marra branded the approach “shameful” and said the “attempt silence NHS boards will horrify patients and NHS staff. There is clearly a huge problem in the NHS. The SNP should be sorting that out, not silencing NHS staff.”
The Scottish Conservatives said that NHS chiefs should be helping staff deal with the crisis “rather than trying to bury bad news.”
The SNP were put under increased pressure by confirmation from health boards of cancelled procedures including 44 at Greater Glasgow and Clyde and 45 at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary. Five people were reported to have waited more than 12 hours before they were admitted to wards at Ayr Hospital at the weekend.
Meanwhile, the Royal College of Nursing’s Scottish Director, Theresa Fyffe said they had “been warning the Scottish government for months that a piecemeal approach to the NHS of action plans and task-forces set up to look at different issues is not going to work.”
The Scottish Government said that the email was “reflecting the need to ensure all figures are robust and comparable” and said no letters had been sent to health boards “at this time”.