Labour leader Anas Sarwar, Health Board leadership chief executive Jane Grant, chairman John Brown, and First Minister Humza Yousaf.

By Bill Heaney

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar made an impassioned plea today for the Scottish Government to fire Health Board chairman John Brown and chief executive Jane Grant while the criminal investigation and the public inquiry continue into the deaths of four patients, including ten-year-old Milly Main, in the £800 million showpiece Queen Elizabeth University Hospital campus, which includes the Royal Children’s Hospital.

Mr Sarwar told MSPs: “Let me be clear: John Brown should not be advising the Government and he should not hold any public appointments while the criminal investigation and the public inquiry continue.

“The chief executive of the health board, Jane Grant, has been in post since before Milly died. During that time, she has been paid more than £1 million.

“She has led an organisation that is now being investigated for corporate homicide, that has gaslit grieving families, shut down and bullied NHS staff, and called into question the results of an independent review that exposed fatal infections in children.

“She will continue to run the health board while the police investigate her actions and those of the people who report to her. In any other walk of life, suspects would not be allowed to walk free on a crime scene.

“Why does the First Minister continue to back, and not sack, the chief executive of the health board?”

The Greater Glasgow and Clyde NHS Board corporate homicide investigation was raised during First Minister’s Questions.

Anas Sarwar said that while Health Secretary Michael Matheson continued to save his job over an £11,000 communications bill which turned out to have been run up by his sons watching football, including a Celtic v Rangers match, during a family holiday in Morocco last Christmas, the crisis in the NHS here in Scotland rumbled on.

He added: “Greater Glasgow and Clyde NHS Board has been named as a suspect in a corporate homicide investigation into the deaths of four patients, including 10-year-old Milly Main.

The Royal Hospital for Children on the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital campus.

“For years, Milly’s family have sought justice but, years on from the case first being raised, no one has been held to account and no one has lost their job. The chair, John Brown, who has overseen the scandal, comes to the end of his term in a few weeks.

“However, despite being chair of the only public body in Scottish history to be named a suspect in a corporate homicide case, he is to be kept on by the Government as an adviser on NHS good governance. An adviser on NHS good governance—you could not make this up.

“What message does that send to grieving families, and what does it say about the First Minister’s judgment, that the man who presided over this scandal will continue to advise his Government?”

The First Minister replied: “First of all, my thoughts and condolences continue to go to the families who have been impacted and affected. Let me pay credit to Anas Sarwar, who I know has provided support to many of those families who have been so tragically impacted and affected.

“Where Anas Sarwar and I vehemently disagree is that I, of course, believe that the Government has taken action. That is why we established the public inquiry in the first place.

“The entire purpose and point of a public inquiry is to get to the truth of these matters. I obviously cannot comment on a live police investigation. It is important for me to say that individuals have not been named in relation to the health board. In that regard, it is the health board of NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde that has, as a corporate entity, been named as a suspect.

“I say to Anas Sarwar that, although he may wish to be the judge and the jury in the investigation, it is my job to ensure that I do not interfere or intervene in either the public inquiry or, indeed, a live police investigation. We will hold the board to account when necessary.

“That is why the oversight board was established in the first place and why we ensured that the 108 recommendations [made by it] were completed.

“We will allow the independent inquiry and the independent police investigation to get on with the job that they are meant to do without the Government interfering.”

However, Anas Sarwar continued to press Humza Yousaf for answers to his many questions.

He told MSPs: “The First Minister’s judgment is called into question, because Jeane Freeman [a now retired Health Secretary] put those people into special measures and Humza Yousaf lifted them out of special measures and empowered them.

“Why does the First Minister continue to back, and not sack, the chief executive of the health board?”

The First Minister replied: “To be absolutely clear, unless Anas Sarwar has other information that is not in the public domain, individuals such as Jane Grant have not been named as suspects. It is of course NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, as a corporate entity, that has been named as a suspect.

“It is a suspect, and it is important that the police investigation is allowed to continue. As I said, Anas Sarwar may wish to be the judge and the jury. It is important that I allow the police investigation to happen without interruption.

“Anas Sarwar has made the point that NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde was de-escalated. He is right—it was de-escalated—but the entire point is that it was de-escalated because it made improvements in performance following the completion of all 108 recommendations outlined in the independent review.

“Is Anas Sarwar seriously suggesting that, having completed all the recommendations from the oversight board, no appropriate action should have been taken?

“On patient safety, which is at the very heart of the issues, I am pleased that Parliament was able to pass the Patient Safety Commissioner for Scotland Bill. On top of that, we have taken many actions in relation to patient safety.

“I will continue to ensure that we allow the public inquiry and police investigation to take their course unimpeded, without interference from the Scottish Government. At the same time, we will do everything that we can to ensure patient safety in our NHS.” 

Anas Sarwar said it was “such a tragedy” that, every week, the First Minister continues to demonstrate how completely out of depth he is in his position.

He added: “We have the first ever corporate homicide investigation of a public body in Scottish history, and those are the answers that we are getting from Scotland’s First Minister.

“Deadly mistakes were made, facts were denied, a cover-up is continuing and, to this day, no one—not a single person—has been held to account. Instead, incompetence is rewarded.

“This is not just the story of that health board; it is the story of the Scottish National Party Government.

“From deleted WhatsApp Covid messages to the leadership of the health board being allowed to continue in their jobs, it has all been so that the Government can try to save face, while families grieve the loss of loved ones.

“First Minister, your choices have consequences. On Monday, Kimberly Darroch, the mother of Milly Main, said: ‘I’ve never been able to celebrate Milly’s life like I should be. Anytime I think of Milly, I think of all the pain that day caused and continues to cause. … I feel that pain the day I lost her every single day because of all of this.”

“First Minister, for once, do the right thing: sack the leadership of that health board.”

The First Minister told him: “cannot imagine the pain of losing a child. It is every parent’s worst nightmare, without a shadow of a doubt. I have, of course, paid credit to those who have supported Kimberly Darroch, and other families who have suffered such a loss.

“What I am interested in is action. That is why the Government established the oversight board. It is why we established the public inquiry, introduced and passed the Patient Safety Commissioner for Scotland Bill and introduced the duty of candour.

“It is why we established the independent national whistle blowing officer—the first of its kind in the United Kingdom. It is why we ensured that there are whistle-blowing champions in every single health board. We will continue to demonstrate that leadership.

“I always know that Anas Sarwar is faltering when he goes for the personal attacks. It is something that he has done throughout his time as leader of the Scottish Labour Party. I remind him about his version of leadership.

“Just yesterday, we saw a demonstration of the lack of leadership that Anas Sarwar is able to show. If, in the face of thousands of innocent men, women and children in Gaza being killed, Anas Sarwar cannot even demand that his own Labour members of Parliament back a ceasefire, that is not a version of leadership that I will subscribe to.”

Top of page caption: Ten year old Milly Main and her mother Kimberley Darroch.

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