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Mystery over Jason Leitch’s NHS Tayside employment

The under-fire national clinical director is still employed by the health board, even though he works for the Scottish Government.

National clinical director Jason Leitch. Jane Barlow/PA Wire
National clinical director Jason Leitch. Jane Barlow/PA Wire

Questions have been raised over Professor Jason Leitch’s role at NHS Tayside after it emerged Scotland’s national clinical director is an employee of the health board.

The under-fire civil servant is employed by the local authority on “standard NHS consultant terms and conditions” and works for the Scottish Government under a “service-level agreement”.

His secondment came to light after a request – under Freedom of Information (FOI) laws – for details of his senior government adviser salary.

And it means, unlike other senior civil servants, his earnings and financial interests are not in the public eye.

The arrangement also poses conflict-of-interest questions over his role in setting up investigations into disgraced NHS Tayside surgeon Sam Eljamel.

Disgraced surgeon Sam Eljamel
Former NHS Tayside neurosurgeon Sam Eljamel. Image: DC Thomson

Victims of the rogue doctor are already furious about his involvement in efforts to establish a public inquiry into the scandal.

Dundee Labour MSP Michael Marra said: “The patients harmed by Eljamel do not trust the leadership of NHS Tayside.

“That is very clear and, following the many years of denial and delay from the Board, it is entirely understandable.

“So the idea that an employee of NHS Tayside in the form of Professor Jason Leitch will oversee what are supposed to be independent one to one case reviews is completely unacceptable.

“The patients must have full confidence in the process and this would undermine it from the outset.”

Dundee Labour MSP Michael Marra. Image: DC Thomson.

Professor Leitch – facing calls to quit his high-ranking job after damning evidence emerged at last week’s Covid inquiry in Edinburgh – has worked for the Scottish Government since 2007.

His official government biography says he was appointed national clinical director in 2015 and it also adds that he is an honorary professor at the University of Dundee.

There are mentions of his background in dentistry and his healthcare work in the UK and his multiple fellowships.

But there is no mention of his employment by NHS Tayside, nor is it mentioned on his LinkedIn profile.

Covid Scotland Jason Leitch
Professor Leitch has faced calls to quit.

Professor Leitch, in his role as national clinical director, hosted the health board’s annual Staff Appreciation and Recognition Awards at Dundee’s Apex Hotel in May 2019.

Three years later, accompanied by former NHS Tayside chief Grant Archibald, he visited Ninewells Hospital to meet frontline workers involved in delivering new treatments for Covid-19.

Last June, he wrote on X: “Two great days of visits. Yesterday at @NHSTayside welcoming over 200 new nurses to the NHS in Tayside.

“More inspiring for them than me I’m sure. Then a tour of Ninewells including the refurbished neonatal ICU.

“Thanks all for the welcome.”

Professor Leitch – a prominent figure on social media during the Covid-19 pandemic – has praised the efforts of NHS Tayside staff on multiple occasions in the past decade but has not divulged his employment by the local authority.

Lead Eljamel campaigner Jules Rose. Image: Mhairi Edwards/DC Thomson

Lead Eljamel campaigner Jules Rose, who was harmed by the surgeon, said: “To hear that Mr Leitch is on the payroll of NHS Tayside, the organisation who let Eljamel harm us, I am flabbergasted and disgusted.

“On behalf of the harmed patients, we reiterate that Jason Leitch must be removed immediately.”

Pat Kelly, another victim of the disgraced medic, said: “I am concerned.

“We have a right to know his background and whether or not he is still on secondment or payroll with NHS Tayside.

Eljamel campaigner Pat Kelly. Image: Kim Cessford/DC Thomson.

“I never had any faith in these clinical reviews but knowing Leitch was with NHS Tayside I have no faith at all now.”

NHS consultants in Scotland can earn between £93,666 and £126,281 a year depending on length of service.

Health service documents state service level agreements are “not a contract enforceable under law” but “represent the mutual commitment and collaboration of the parties to meet service requirements and thereby to support the delivery of high quality patient care”.

Professor Leitch was criticised last week after texts showed him telling First Minister Humza Yousaf, health secretary at the time, how he could dodge Covid mask rules.

WhatsApp messages also revealed he joked with Mr Yousaf about “winging it” during the pandemic and said a Conservative MSP had been “harrumphing like a child”.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Professor Leitch has not been directly involved in this work.

“Scottish Government officials working in the directorate co-led by the national clinical director are progressing the necessary work to establish both the independent clinical review and public inquiry.”

NHS Tayside has been contacted for comment.