Victims of disgraced neurosurgeon Sam Eljamel face being left in limbo again as the SNP install a fifth health secretary since the scandal first erupted.
Patients harmed by the ex-Dundee doctor fear Michael Matheson’s departure could lead to further delays for a promised public inquiry into the NHS Tayside scandal.
Mr Matheson announced his resignation on Thursday morning after months of pressure to quit for running up an £11,000 iPad bill.
He granted the public inquiry, along with separate one-to-one reviews for patients, last September after eight years demands from relentless campaigners.
I, like most patients, am truly sick of the Scottish Government’s new version of the health minister hokey cokey. In, out, in out, until you get found out.
– Campaigner Pat Kelly.
Since then, victims of Eljamel – who repeatedly botched operations on patients between 1995 and 2013 – have grown frustrated over a lack of progress in getting the inquiry started.
Mr Matheson has also been forced to answer questions over uncertainty surrounding under-fire Jason Leitch’s role in the process.
Lead campaigner Pat Kelly, harmed by Eljamel in 2007, first demanded a public inquiry in 2015 when Deputy First Minister Shona Robison held the health brief.
His pleas went unanswered by four consecutive health secretaries, including First Minister Humza Yousaf, until the government U-turned last year.
Mr Kelly warned he was sick of the SNP’s “health minister hokey cokey”.
He worries the new health secretary will have to spend lots of time learning about the long-running controversy from scratch.
The former Dundee DJ said: “How many more health ministers will there be before we even start the public inquiry?
“Now another one has to be brought up to speed on the Eljamel debacle.
“I, like most patients, am truly sick of the Scottish Government’s new version of the health minister hokey cokey. In, out, in out, until you get found out.”
Jules Rose, another lead campaigner who was harmed by Eljamel, warned a change in health chief cannot be an excuse for any further delays.
The Kinross mum was furious last month when Mr Yousaf was unable to say for certain the public inquiry would kick off this year.
Last week we reported a candidate to chair the probe into the scandal had been identified.
Ms Rose said: “Seeing through yet another health secretary only adds to the compounded frustration and anxiety all victims of Eljamel feel.
“On behalf of all harmed patients, we certainly will not be accepting any delays.”
Mid Scotland and Fife Tory MSP Liz Smith has regularly quizzed Mr Matheson on the progress of setting up the inquiry.
She said: “The very last thing the Eljamel patients need is yet further delay and prevarication.
“As soon as the first minister appoints a new health secretary, l will immediately be in touch to seek the answers about the public inquiry and clinical reviews which have, so far, not been forthcoming.”