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breaking news

Iain Stewart not to take up NHSO chief executive role

NHSO chief executive designate Iain Stewart will not be taking up the role of chief executive.

NHS Orkney has announced, today, Tuesday, that Iain Stewart will not be taking on the role of chief executive. Mr Stewart has been working as chief executive designate since March, and had been set to take the reins from outgoing chief executive Gerry O’Brien at the beginning of July.

But the health authority has now confirmed that NHS Shetland Chief Executive Michael Dickson will be taking on the role of interim chief executive of NHS Orkney, alongside NHS Shetland, with immediate effect and for the foreseeable future.  NHS Orkney has explained that this will be an interim arrangement, to see the health board through the winter and until a recruitment process can be undertaken.

Mr Stewart has subject to intense public scrutiny in recent weeks, after it was confirmed that he had been travelling from Orkney to his home in the Black Isle “on occasion” during lockdown. It was later revealed via a Freedom of Information request submitted by The Orcadian that Mr Stewart had travelled from Orkney to the Scottish Mainland on no less than five occasions, inside lockdown. Since he began working for NHS Orkney, Mr Stewart had racked up £4,500 in travel and accommodation costs to the health authority. It was also confirmed that he had also travelled as far as Glasgow, while restrictions were in place.

At the time his travel arrangements were reported, NHS Orkney said that it supported Mr Stewart’s decision to travel to his home. The Scottish Government also gave its backing to the chief executive’s reasons for travelling. In light of revelations, Orkney MSP Liam McArthur had called on Mr Stewart to resign, or “be removed.”

Today’s announcement from NHS Orkney does not address the public criticism Mr Stewart has received.

Meghan McEwan, NHSO chairwoman said: “Iain Stewart will not be taking up the role of Chief Executive and Accountable Officer with NHS Orkney.   Iain has provided us with a valuable contribution as Gold Commander during our COVID-19 response phase and has demonstrated a commitment to listening and putting staff at the heart of how we do our business.  I would like to thank him for his service and wish him well.

“NHS Orkney needs to look to the future and I believe Michael will help steer us through the recovery and renewal process as we restart our services and adapt to our changing environment.”

According to NHS Orkney, Mr Dickson brings with him a wealth of experience of remote, island and rural healthcare service delivery. 

The new interim chief executive said: “Both chairs from NHS Orkney and NHS Shetland routinely share good practice and innovation to support the delivery of high quality care to our respective island communities. I see this appointment as an extension of that mutual support.

“I am really looking forward to meeting the teams, working together and building on the bright and sustainable future ahead for healthcare in Orkney.”​