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NHS chief apologises in open letter

NHS Orkney’s chief executive designate has written an open letter to the people of Orkney, following criticism relating to his decision to travel to his home in the Black Isle during the lockdown.

Iain Stewart’s personal letter comes in response to a number of letters from readers of The Orcadian, this week, as well as further questioning from the newspaper.

Here is Mr Stewarts letter in full.

Open letter from Iain Stewart to the people of Orkney.

I know there has been a great deal of discussion and comment on my travel arrangements in recent weeks. I wanted to take this opportunity to lay out the facts of the matter.

As the chief executive designate of NHS Orkney I am fully aware of the expectation that is placed upon me by the Scottish Government, NHS Orkney Board and the people of Orkney.  

I have returned to my home on the mainland on a few occasions since the March 1, 2020, only when my family has needed me. The board of NHS Orkney were aware of these journeys. The Board is clear that being an island health board, we simply could not function without movement of staff on and off the island.  This applies to all of our staff groups right across the system of health and social care.  

All our staff are kept fully up to date with latest guidance, including steps to take if they have any of the symptoms of COVID-19, and how to get tested.

The Scottish Government gave their full support to the arrangements stating: 

“The role of the Chief Executive of NHS Orkney is pivotal to the safe and effective delivery of healthcare services on the island.

“While he is working, the chief executive stays in accommodation provided by NHS Orkney – this is not treated as a first or second home for the purposes of the current travel restrictions.  Staff can therefore travel to and from their family or principal home, when not working.

“The chair, Meghan McEwen has looked into the issue and is satisfied that Iain Stewart has acted reasonably and within the terms of the national guidance.”

I would, however, like to take this opportunity to offer the people of Orkney a sincere heartfelt apology for any offence that I may have caused.  I am committed to the role I have accepted and am looking forward to building on the fantastic work that has been put in place over the last number of years.

Finally, it has been suggested that members of my family have been visiting me while in the county. This is not the case. My daughter, is a student nurse, who like many others has come to work in Orkney on the frontline in The Balfour, and has been living with me in my temporary accommodation.

Yours sincerely,

Iain Stewart