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EXCLUSIVE: Whistleblowing chief quits scandal-hit health board

NHS Tayside Chairman Professor John Connell and NHS Tayside Chief Executive Lesley McLay at Ninewells Hospital.
NHS Tayside Chairman Professor John Connell and NHS Tayside Chief Executive Lesley McLay at Ninewells Hospital.

A WHISTLEBLOWER’S champion at a scandal-hit health board has quit claiming serious issues were being ignored.

Munwar Hussain has stood down from NHS Tayside board and written to the First Minister and Health Secretary Jeane Freeman to raise his concerns.

He had been appointed the board’s whistleblowing champion – a role meant to ensure staff’s concerns were treated seriously – in April and was also chair of the board’s staff governance committee and a member of the audit and remuneration committees.

Yesterday, he told the Sunday Post: “I have decided to resign my position from NHS Tayside.

“I am on stress leave from this role. I have taken the decision not to return when my leave expires and I have notified the chairman.

“Certain matters were escalated to me that were serious and cause for concern. I, in turn, highlighted these issues to the chairman and others. I feel that I have not been given the appropriate assurances that these important matters are being dealt with. I have put the range of my concerns in writing to the cabinet secretary and the First Minister. I am still waiting on a reply.”

He refused to detail the issues he raised, but added: “I feel it’s serious but they are not taking it seriously.”

NHS Tayside confirmed Mr Hussain has resigned with effect from October 17, adding: “We can confirm that Mr Hussain raised concerns relating to one particular case and this is currently under investigation.”

He is one of three resignations from the board, also including the vice-chair Stephen Hay and Doug Cross, chair of the finance and resources committee. All three are members of the audit committee.

They have stood down after both the chief executive and chair left their posts after it emerged NHS Tayside had taken charitable donations to pay for an IT system.

NHS Tayside said: “Non-executive members of Tayside NHS Board Doug Cross, Stephen Hay and Munwar Hussain have decided to step down from the board and will leave over the next few weeks.”

The departures come as two reports into the financial scandals at NHS Tayside are expected to be published in the coming weeks.

The crisis at NHS Tayside emerged earlier this year when it was revealed more than £2 million had been taken from its endowment fund – made up of public donations and bequests from wills – to cover the costs of new IT systems in 2014.

Auditors also found accounts had been “misrepresented”, with a practice of using funds earmarked for e-health initiatives to offset general expenditure since 2012.

It led to the resignation of chair Professor John Connell in April after then Health Secretary Shona Robison took the unusual step of calling for him to step down.

Chief executive Lesley McLay was effectively removed from her post in the same month and left at the end of July after going off on sick leave.

The charity regulator OSCR launched an inquiry into the use of Tayside NHS Board’s endowment fund, which is expected to report by the end of September.

Scottish Labour’s health spokesperson, Anas Sarwar MSP, said: “These resignations throw NHS Tayside into fresh turmoil, and members of the public will rightly want to know what caused half of the committee to dramatically resign.”

Miles Briggs, Scottish Conservative shadow health secretary, added: “NHS Tayside has been limping from one controversy to another, so both the timing and the nature of the resignations will raise questions.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Ministers are aware of these resignations and would like to thank those members for their contribution to NHS Tayside. Any issues raised around whistleblowing will be fully explored in accordance with existing NHS whistleblowing policy.”