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Crisis-hit NHS Highland appoints new chief executive

NHS Highland has appointed a new chief executive as it tries to turn the tide against a £20m budget deficit and allegations of a culture of bullying and harassment.

Iain Stewart, currently the deputy chief of commissioning at NHS Mid-Nottinghamshire CCG, will take over the top job from Alaine Mead at the end of the month, after nearly 30 years in the public sector within the NHS in England and Wales.

A pivotal part of his role will be to try and turn the trust around following allegations by staff of a culture of bullying and harassment, with a high-level independent review being undertaken by John Sturrock QC according to the Scottish government.

NHS Highland, which covers Argyll, Bute and the Highlands, also faces a projected deficit of £19.9m for 2018-19—and Audit Scotland said in November that it had “serious reservations” over the finances of the health board.

The trust had borrowed £15m from the government last year but said it was producing a longer-term recovery plan.

In July the trust had reported a £25m deficit, and following the region’s board meeting it revealed that it had an annual savings target of £51.5m.

Iain Stewart said he was looking forward to taking up the new role, stating: “Having lived in the Highlands for over 40 years, with close ties to Argyll and the Scottish islands, the health and wellbeing of NHS Highland’s population is exceptionally important to me and I am delighted to be appointed to this role and am looking forward to leading, innovating and improving health and social care services across the Highlands and Argyll & Bute.”

“I have provided senior operational and transformational leadership to various NHS organisations, managing multiple acute hospitals, mental health, community and strategic commissioning throughout England and North Wales.

“It is now time for me to consolidate these experiences and, together, I believe we can continue to build a world class health and social care service for the north of Scotland.”

Until Stewart, originally from Stornoway in Lewis, takes over, the deputy chief medical officer for Scotland Dr Gregor Smith will act as the interim chief executive at NHS Highland.

Health secretary Jeane Freeman commented: “I am pleased that Iain Stewart has accepted the role of chief executive of NHS Highland. He has important experience in the public sector, including the health service, and I wish him well in this critical leadership role.

“The priority, as always across NHS Scotland, is patient care, and I am confident that under Iain Stewart’s leadership, people across the Highlands will receive the excellent level of service they deserve.”


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