Government official says he is the NHS Lothian waiting list scandal whistleblower

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John Connaghan, the director of health workforce and performance with the Scottish government, told MSPs he was the whistleblower that exposed the NHS Lothian scandal over the use of "unavailable" codes in patient waiting list logs.

NHS was criticised for removing patients from the 18-week waiting list when they refused to travel to England for treatment, marking them as "unavailable for social reasons".

Mr Connaghan was giving evidence with NHS Scotland chief executive Paul Gray to the Public Audit Committee on Audit Scotland update into the management of patients on NHS waiting lists on 29 January 2014.

Mr Connaghan said "I can remember exactly what happened at NHS Lothian because I was the whistleblower.

"It was my letter of the 6th of January 2012 to NHS Lothian that indicated dissatisfaction with their first report to their boards because I didn't think it was extensive enough and it was me that requested NHS Lothian to then ask their internal audit, who were independent, to take a look at this in closer detail."

He was responding to Labour MSP Ken MacIntosh who had said the waiting list scandal was one of the biggest the NHS in Scotland had faced, yet despite assurances of increasing transparency every single compromise settlement with staff now contained a gagging clause.

NHS Scotland chief executive Paul Gray insisted he supported a culture of transparency but would not give his perspective on gagging clauses until talks with the health secretary had been concluded.

The Audit Scotland report found no Scottish health board had met a new government target for all outpatients to receive their first appointment within 12 weeks.

Audit Scotland also found two boards did not meet another target that 90% of patients should wait no longer than 18 weeks from referral to treatment.

But the watchdog said improvements had been made to the ways waiting lists were managed and scrutinised.

Earlier the committee convener Hugh Henry MSP questioned the witnesses about failures to meet the waiting list targets and the legal guarantee of a maximum waiting time of 12 weeks from referral to inpatient treatment.

Mr Henry said many parts of Scotland could have no confidence in some of the targets not being met and asked if the failure to meet the legal guarantee was "a farce".

Paul Gray insisted NHS boards were not ignoring the legal guarantee, with it being met in "many, many cases" and the shortfall was being taken "very seriously".

Mr Henry then expressed concern about access to redress when a waiting time was missed by those who did not have "deep pockets", saying the "rich, articulate and confident are able to seek redress the rest of the country can just go whistle".

The NHS Scotland chief executive denied this saying a patient could approach a board, their MSP or their councillor with a complaint.

The committee also took evidence on the Audit Scotland report into the financial performance of the NHS.

John Matheson and Dr Aileen Keel gave evidence on behalf of the Scottish government.

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