Jason Leitch quits senior government post and controversial NHS Tayside role

Under-fire Jason Leitch has quit his senior Scottish Government post and controversial NHS Tayside role.

The top health official, a senior adviser during the Covid pandemic, will leave his job as national clinical director at the end of April.

Mr Leitch’s links to the NHS Tayside health board – where he is officially employed – have proven controversial since the start of the year.

He faced calls to resign from his government role in January as a consequence of damning evidence from the UK Covid inquiry.

Texts showed him advising Humza Yousaf, then health secretary, how to dodge Covid mask rules he had regularly defended.

He also joked about regularly deleting WhatsApp messages relating to decisions being made during the pandemic.

We then reported Mr Leitch had a role in establishing the public inquiry into the scandal surrounding disgraced neurosurgeon Sam Eljamel, despite the concerns of campaigners.

Former NHS Tayside neurosurgeon Sam Eljamel. Image: DC Thomson

It then emerged he is only seconded to the Scottish Government and is an employee of NHS Tayside, the health board at the centre of the scandal.

Victims of disgraced Eljamel, who repeatedly harmed patients when he worked in Dundee, claimed there were conflict of interest concerns around Mr Leitch’s role.

Scottish Government officials insisted Mr Leitch was “not involved”, even though officials in his department were involved in picking an inquiry chair.

We later revealed he was still receiving updates on a separate review into harmed patients’ cases despite his Tayside employment.

Jason Leitch was a regular fixture during Covid briefings.

Mr Leitch became one of Scotland’s most well-known public health figures during the pandemic, regularly appearing alongside Nicola Sturgeon in daily briefings.

In a statement, he said: “It has been an enormous privilege to carry out this role and work closely with colleagues across the health and care sector in service of the patients, their families and carers.

“The Covid pandemic was an unprecedented challenge for all countries and I am proud of my colleagues inside and outside government for their incredible work.

“It was a privilege to be able to communicate with the public so directly and be part of that co-ordinated response.

“I will forever be grateful for the public’s attention and willingness to follow the guidance – it saved lives.”

Mr Leitch was appointed to his post as national clinical director in January 2015.

He has worked for the Scottish Government since 2007.

The outgoing senior health official said he will look for “new challenges” in the health and care sector after taking a break.

First Minister Humza Yousaf praised Jason Leitch. Image: Kenzie Gillies/DC Thomson

First Minister Humza Yousaf said: “Jason Leitch has made a fantastic contribution to the health of the nation, leading work to reduce hospital acquired infections and improve the quality of care in the NHS.

“He played a huge role in helping me and fellow Ministers navigate the Covid pandemic by providing advice to help reach the best decisions, and by communicating so well with the public.”

His predecessor Ms Sturgeon said: “Wishing Jason Leitch all the very best for the future.

“I always valued the advice and support he gave me – not least during Covid when he was a key part of the Scottish Government team and a reassuring presence for many across the country.”


Leave a Comment