Almost 28 months after announcing the role in a blaze of publicity and almost six months after the first minister promised it would be filled this year, no one has been invited to become Scotland’s Women’s Health Champion, we can reveal.
The job was not advertised by the Scottish Government and, while six candidates have been interviewed, no offers have been made despite calls from clinicians and national health charities, backed by The Sunday Post, for the appointment to be made urgently to close health inequalities in care and treatment.
Nicola Sturgeon last month told MSPs there would be an update from Health Secretary Humza Yousaf on the appointment “in the new year” but, we can reveal, while six women were approached by ministers and interviewed for the post, none had been offered the job by mid-December.
The creation of a Women’s Health Champion was announced in August 2021 as a key part of the Scottish Government’s trumpeted Women’s Health Plan.
Campaigners say the role is vital in addressing failings in women’s health provision, and closing gaps which exist between the treatment of and survival rates for men and women with major illnesses.
But in May the slow progress in filling the role prompted 17 leading charities to write an open letter to the Scottish Government, demanding greater urgency before, weeks later, the first minister told MSPs an appointment would be made during the summer.
In September, the Scottish Government said it was considering a number of candidates and expected to make an announcement soon – a claim it repeated the following month. On December 15, Sturgeon said in the Scottish Parliament: “A number of very high-calibre candidates have been interviewed for this important role and the appointments process is now in its final stages and the health secretary will provide an update to parliament early in the new year.”
However, the Scottish Government’s response to inquiries from The Sunday Post made under freedom of information laws, dated December 19, said while six candidates had been interviewed, none had been offered the post. Asked whether it had advertised the role, it said: “The Scottish Government made the decision to directly invite people for interview and six high-calibre women have been interviewed for this important role.
“The appointments process is in the final stages and the health secretary will provide an update to parliament early in the New Year.
“We have not used, or spent money on, recruitment consultants as part of this appointments process.”
However, critics say ministers should have been using headhunters and failing to do so could create the impression the Scottish Government is intent on finding a candidate agreeable to ministers instead of an independent champion of women patients.
Women’s health campaigner Mary Galbraith, who secured a health grant of almost £200,000 to pioneer research into vital rehabilitation after suffering a serious heart condition mainly affecting females, was among those questioning the failure to advertise.
She said: “We should be able to pull from a geographic wealth of expertise to get the best the best possible woman for the job.”
Labour health spokesperson Jackie Baillie said: “It’s all too clear that the SNP has paid only lip service to women’s health causes.
“That the role of Women’s Health Champion has not been advertised beggars belief. We need the widest possible range of candidates to pick from.
“Now we learn that, despite several candidates being handpicked by the government, no one has been offered the role. For months now, the Scottish Government has repeatedly said an appointment is imminent but that has clearly not been the case.
“The women of Scotland need more than promises of jam tomorrow from the government.”
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