Internal health board emails obtained by local MSP Jackie Baillie reveal that the SNP Leader of West Dunbartonshire Council misled the public when he claimed to have “secured” the GP out of hours service at the Vale of Leven Hospital.
Cllr Jonathan McColl tried to grab the headlines in July with a press statement claiming that he had received reassurances from NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde that the long-term future of the Out of Hours service at the Vale was safe, following a meeting with the Chair of the health board.
Internal health board emails released under Freedom of Information laws confirm that the so-called reassurance was based on a briefing note which made no specific reference to retaining the service at the Vale of Leven Hospital or protecting its current opening hours.[i]
The SNP Council Leader claimed that John Brown CBE, Chair of NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde had “confirmed that the Out of Hours GP Service at the Vale of Leven Hospital is secure”. However in an email responding to Cllr McColl’s press release, John Brown told the health board’s Communication’s Director to give no guarantee that the service will remain at the Vale. He said: “I agree we need to stick to the agreed lines which confirm that we are committed to a service, without saying what that will be or where it will be delivered from once the review is completed.”
The future of the Vale’s GP Out of Hours service was thrown into doubt earlier this year when the health board sent a paper to West Dunbartonshire Health and Social Care Partnership outlining proposals to downgrade it to a weekend-only service, with out of hours cover provided at the RAH in Paisley on Mondays to Fridays.
“We already knew that the SNP’s bold claim about saving the Vale GP out-of-hours was ill-judged and premature because the health board wasted no time in confirming that the review was still going ahead.
“However these internal emails raise further questions about the Council Leader’s decision to deliberately issue a misleading press release and cause confusion among local patients and campaigners. It would appear that Cllr McColl has taken a bland and meaningless statement from the health board briefing which says nothing about the Vale of Leven Hospital and turned it into a cast-iron guarantee. This takes Chinese whispers to a whole new level.
“Behind the scenes the Chair of the health board admits that they will not answer questions about the future of the local out-of-hours GP service and where it will be based. This is completely unacceptable and I will continue to campaign alongside local GPs and patients to oppose any cuts to our local health services.”
Notes to Editors
Communications Director Ally McLaws’ email to the Chair and Chief Executive of the board on 17/7/17: “Our briefing issued to Jonathan [McColl] on Friday says ‘The Board remains totally committed to providing a high quality OOH service to all communities across Greater Glasgow and Clyde. This commitment clearly extends to the population currently served by the Vale GP OOH service.’ This has been interpreted in the press release as ‘Health Board Chair John Brown CBE has confirmed that the Out of Hours GP service at the Vale of Leven Hospital is secure, and the previous draft report putting it under threat has been scrapped’.
2. Document attached with NHS GGC documents released under