The mystery of Professor Jason Leitch’s employment with NHS Tayside has deepened after board meeting minutes suggesting he held a senior role with the local authority emerged.
Scotland’s under-fire national clinical director was twice described as ‘medical director, Tayside Centre for Organisational Effectiveness’ in papers from more than a decade ago.
The official record was taken on October 25, 2012 – nearly two months after the health board claims he started a secondment to the Scottish Government.
A biography of Prof Leitch a year later, ahead of his speaking engagement at The International Society for Quality in Health Care conference, includes the line: “Jason is also the Medical Director of the Tayside Centre for Organisational Effectiveness.”
In recent weeks, campaigners angry at Prof Leitch’s role in the Covid Inquiry WhatsApp controversy demanded that he step back from overseeing investigations into disgraced NHS Tayside surgeon Sam Eljamel.
Those calls intensified after it was revealed he has been an employee of the health board for 11 years, on secondment to the Scottish Government.
The national clinical director was on the books at NHS Tayside when the rogue doctor was suspended in 2013 for harming patients.
Two years earlier, in board meeting minutes, he was described as ‘the national clinical lead for patient safety and improvement’.
‘They need to get their story straight’
Neither this role nor that of ‘medical director, Tayside Centre for Organisational Effectiveness’ are mentioned on Prof Leitch’s Scottish Government biography or his LinkedIn page.
Eljamel – now working in his native Libya after fleeing Scotland – botched dozens of operations and left patients with lifelong injuries between 1995 and 2013 while working in Dundee as a neurosurgeon.
The Scottish Government previously insisted Prof Leitch is NOT involved in overseeing investigations into the surgery scandal – including the long-awaited public inquiry – despite officials in his department working on it.
Dundee Labour MSP Michael Marra told The Courier: “The government and NHS Tayside need to get their story straight.
“The Eljamel victims have very serious and legitimate concerns regarding over the possible involvement of Jason Leitch in the commissioning and operation of the clinical review process.
“Rebuilding trust needs full disclosure. That patients are so concerned is a result of a decade of denial and delay from both government and health board.
“They must clear this situation up now or more and more people will be asking what there is to hide.”
‘Too many questions remain unanswered’
Health secretary Michael Matheson attempted to clarify the situation at Holyrood on Tuesday when he was quizzed by MSPs who highlighted The Courier’s reporting.
Mr Matheson appeared to rule out any part played in the process by Prof Leitch before later saying there had been no “direct involvement” from the senior civil servant.
But his remarks contradicted Eljamel campaigners’ account of a meeting with the health secretary on September 7 last year, just hours before First Minister Humza Yousaf ordered a public inquiry.
Mid Scotland and Fife MSP Liz Smith says: “Too many questions remain unanswered.
“That is why I asked the SNP health secretary [in a letter] to clarify the role that Professor Jason Leitch has had within NHS Tayside since 2012 and whether, directly or indirectly, he had any role in the Eljamel case.
“Michael Matheson said Professor Leitch was not directly involved but that does not provide the full story.
“These records would suggest a much closer alignment on the dates involved than previously stated.
“The former patients must be told the truth and l will continue my efforts to ensure that happens.”
The Tayside Centre for Organisational Effectiveness was established in February 2011 to “support and enable managers and clinical leaders to embrace and encourage innovation”.
It hit the headlines in January 2013 after it emerged then-CEO Gerry Marr’s wife Carrie secured its most senior post as director – which wasn’t advertised externally or internally – after a management shake-up.
NHS Tayside response
A spokesperson for NHS Tayside said: “Professor Leitch’s title within NHS Tayside reflected the focus of the work he carried out at a national level.
“As part of this national role he provided support to health boards across Scotland, including NHS Tayside.
“At the Scottish Government’s request, NHS Tayside acts as an employer for Professor Leitch during his secondment.
“He has been employed on standard NHS Consultant terms and conditions by NHS Tayside since September 1 2012.
“He has worked for the Scottish Government under a Service Level Agreement with NHS Tayside since that time.
“The Tayside NHS Board is able to invite guest attendees who can present on a range of topics.”