Scotland’s health secretary urged to reveal full details of watchdog deal
Humza Yousaf (Photo: Fraser Bremner – Pool/Getty Images).
THE health secretary of Scotland has been urged to reveal the full details of a deal between the health watchdog and the government.
Humza Yousaf is facing the demand after it was revealed the watchdog’s duties include shielding ministers from criticism, reported The Times.
In a letter to Yousaf, Jackie Baillie, Labour’s health spokeswoman, also demanded a copy of all correspondence between Public Health Scotland and St Andrews House relating to any published documents, the report added.
She wrote that it “must be clear that (PHS is) free to criticise ministers, to publish evidence independent of the Scottish government and act in the wholly independent way the public expects”.
The Times last week revealed that PHS, which reported on the mass discharge of patients from hospitals, has to score papers to determine whether they criticise government policies.
Nicola Sturgeon, the first minister, last week said it was “not the duty of Public Health Scotland or any other public body to protect ministers”. Baillie said the disclosure would help to dispel fears over the agency’s independence.
According to the report, an agreed “communications framework” between PHS, the Scottish government and Cosla, which represents councils, was uncovered using freedom of information legislation.
The deal instructs PHS to manage “risk” when communicating with the media and public.
It also makes clear the work will “primarily relate to reducing the potential impact of the risk on the reputation and credibility of the organisations, which may also impact the wider NHS and local authorities”, the report said.
Conservatives have demanded a rerun of the “compromised” PHS investigation into coronavirus deaths in Scotland’s care homes.
The Scottish government said the report was produced independently by PHS working in partnership with the Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow.
“Public Health Scotland functions entirely independently of ministers — as of course is right and proper — and any suggestion to the contrary is absolutely wrong,” a spokesman told The Times.
“It discharges its duties with integrity and is committed to work that is both open and transparent”.