Highlands & Islands

NHS Highland's chairman David Alston resigns

David Alston Image copyright Highland Council
Image caption David Alston was a Highland councillor before taking up the role of chairman at NHS Highland

The chairman of NHS Highland has resigned, the Scottish government has said.

David Alston was appointed to the role in 2015 and took over from Garry Coutts in March the following year.

Before his appointment, Mr Alston had been a long-serving Highland councillor.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman has appointed Prof Boyd Robertson, a former principal of Skye's Sabhal Mòr Ostaig Gaelic college, as interim chairman.

In a statement, Mr Alston said it had been a "privilege" to serve an "incredible" health board first as a non-executive director and then as its chairman.

Faced challenges

NHS Highland has also announced that Dr Rod Harvey is step down from his position of board medical director and take retirement with effect from the 31 August.

By the time of his retirement Dr Harvey will have worked continuously in the NHS for 37 years, the health board said.

NHS Highland covers a large area, including the Highlands, Skye and parts of Argyll. Its hospitals include Raigmore in Inverness and the Belford in Fort William.

It has faced challenges in recent months.

Allegations of a "bullying culture" are being investigated by a QC-led independent review, and the health board has had to deal with projected deficit of £19.9m for 2018/19.

'Effective patient care'

Ms Freeman said Prof Robertson would work alongside NHS Highland's chief executive Iain Stewart, who was appointed in January.

She said: "This is a critical leadership role and Prof Robertson has extensive experience in Scotland's public life, including senior leadership roles.

"It is vital that NHS Highland, under the direction of Prof Robertson and Iain Stewart, moves forward at pace addressing the known priority areas of improvement required including finance and service delivery and embracing fully the work needed from John Sturrock QC's review when finalised."

Image caption Prof Robertson is a former principal of Skye's Sabhal Mòr Ostaig Gaelic college

Ms Freeman added: "The priority, as always across NHS Scotland, is safe and effective patient care, and I am confident that under their leadership, people across the Highlands will receive the excellent level of service they deserve."

Mr Alston, who first joined NHS Highland as a non-executive director in 2003, said: "I am immensely grateful to all of the team here at NHS Highland.

"It has been my privilege to serve as a director of this incredible health board since 2003 and as its chair since 2016.

"Throughout my time with NHS Highland, we have seen many changes and have overcome many challenges. However, the need for change continues and is probably now greater than ever."

On behalf of NHS Highland's board, Mr Stewart thanked Mr Alston for his "many years of dedicated service".

Kate Forbes, SNP MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, also thanked Mr Alston for his service.

She said Prof Robertson was a "brilliant" appointment and that he was respected by many in Highlands.

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