'Cowardly' Health Minister refuses to meet public

The Health Secretary, Jeane Freeman, has been accused of "hiding from the public" after overseeing changes in how health board annual reviews are conducted, ensuring she does not have to face questions from the members of the general public.

New guidance reveals that Ministers, who take charge of the reviews of NHS boards, will no longer take part in the “public session” element.

That will be a matter for the boards themselves, while the Minister will schedule a visit to an NHS facility or meet health service staff. According to the new guidelines "Ministers will not be holding a public session/Q&A as part of this season of Reviews.”, ditching a practice dating from 2004 that the Health Minister (then Labour's Andy Kerr) would chair each health board’s annual review.

Labour's Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport, Monica Lennon, accused the Minister of attempting to ignore the public's concerns on the state of the NHS, commenting:“This is a bad look for Jeane Freeman who appears to be hiding from the public."

“Stripping members of the public of the opportunity to ask the Cabinet Secretary questions is a step backwards. The annual review of NHS boards should be transparent. Closing the doors on the public and meeting the health board in private is not the action of a confident Health Secretary. It is cowardly."

In a statement, a Scottish Government spokesperson said: “There is no change to the core purpose of annual reviews, which is to hold NHS boards to account."

“In terms of format, Ministers will continue to have separate meetings with the Area Clinical Forum (ACF), Area Partnership Forum (APF) and local patients on the mornings of ministerial reviews.”

“In addition, we expect boards to hold public Q&A sessions as part of this season of reviews.”

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