Preferred candidate to head up Eljamel public inquiry identified

A preferred candidate to lead the long-awaited public inquiry into the Eljamel scandal has been identified.

It comes days after SNP health chief Michael Matheson said two contenders were in talks over the inquiry and for a separate case review of the former NHS Tayside surgeon’s victims.

The Scottish Government confirmed one of the candidates will head up the independent probe, while the other will lead the one-to-one patient review.

Eljamel’s patients were delighted when Humza Yousaf finally ordered an inquiry into the scandal last year after years of campaigning.

The major announcement came nearly a decade after the doctor was suspended by NHS Tayside for repeatedly botching operations.

But since then the disgraced neurosurgeon’s victims have grown frustrated and claim the government did not fast enough to get the inquiry under way.

Last month Mr Yousaf angered campaigners when he was unable to guarantee investigations into the ex-Dundee surgeon’s butchery will begin this year.

SNP health chief Michael Matheson. Image: PA.

On Tuesday, Mr Matheson said work to put the public inquiry chair in place was at a “very advanced stage”.

“Both the prospective chairs have been engaging with one another,” he told MSPs.

“There’s been engagement around the clinical review and also the public inquiry in how they will both intersect with one another, because it’s important we get that right.”

Planned investigations into the Eljamel scandal were under heavy scrutiny in the past week due to uncertainty over senior Scottish Government health adviser Jason Leitch’s role in setting them up.

National clinical director Jason Leitch. Jane Barlow/PA Wire

The Courier reported the under-fire national clinical director – who faced calls to quit over Covid controversies – was playing a key part in overseeing the clinical reviews.

The Scottish Government downplayed his involvement but said staff from his government department were helping to set up both probes into the fiasco.

Days later, it emerged Prof Leitch is actually an employee of NHS Tayside, the health board where Eljamel worked.

Government officials then insisted the high-ranking national clinical director is not playing any role in either the inquiry or review process.

Mr Matheson said Professor Craig White, the government’s associate director for health, was the key man setting up investigations into the scandal.

Mid Scotland and Fife Tory MSP Liz Smith. Image: Steve MacDougall/DC Thomson.

Mid Scotland and Fife Tory MSP Liz Smith is among those seeking clarification.

On September 7, hours before the inquiry was announced, Mr Matheson told campaigners that work to set up the sweeping case review would be carried out “through” Prof Leitch.

In her letter to the health secretary, Ms Smith said: “If this account is correct, it confirms that both Professor White and Professor Leitch had been tasked with putting the clinical review process in place.”

She has asked the health secretary to provide her with minutes from the meeting.

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