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NHS Tayside chief breaks silence on departure as politicians react

Grant Archibald is to step down from the top job at NHS Tayside in December after five years in the role.

NHS Tayside chief executive Grant Archibald who retired in December 2023.
NHS Tayside chief executive Grant Archibald who retired in December 2023. Image: Steve MacDougall/DC Thomson.

An “outstanding leader” will be required to replace NHS Tayside chief Grant Archibald, who has broken his silence after it was revealed he would step down in December.

North-east MSP Michael Marra paid tribute to the outgoing NHS manager’s leadership, saying while the “ship had been steadied” over the last four years there was a need for a shift in culture.

While it is understood he told a close group of senior colleagues last week, Mr Archibald, 62, informed staff of his retirement on Monday at 3pm after it was revealed by The Courier.

His time in the senior role has been dominated by the handling of several scandals at the health board, many of which predated his appointment in 2019.

This included the mass-resignation of Tayside cancer specialists following a controversial government report which alleged their prescribing practices for chemotherapy drugs had put patients at risk.

Grant Archibald with Humza Yousaf. Image: Steve Brown/DC Thomson.

And just last week it was revealed staff had been left “raging” after their details had been shared in a data breach.

NHS Tayside insisted Mr Archibald’s decision to stand down from the role – which attracts a six-figure salary – was unconnected to the leak.

A spokeswoman said he had informed the chair of NHS Tayside of his intention to retire on July 16, giving six months’ notice.

She said: “His date of retirement is 31 December 2023, in his 40th year of service to the NHS in Scotland, and five years to the day since he joined NHS Tayside.”

NHS Tayside transformed, outgoing boss says

Writing to NHS Tayside staff, Mr Archibald said he was proud they had succeeded in transforming the health board from “what was judged to be the poorest performing Board five years ago, into one of the best performers in Scotland”.

He added: “The Covid pandemic was an extraordinary trial for all of those working in healthcare in Tayside and our population, and one which required an enormous, unprecedented and ongoing effort.

“However, by working together we were able to continue to deliver care and treatment for our communities ensuring they were looked after by our many dedicated teams.

“I look forward to watching NHS Tayside’s continued success and I wish you all the very best.”

Labour MSP Michael Marra. Image: DC Thomson.

Scottish Labour MSP Michael Marra said the news of Mr Archibald’s retirement would be concerning for locals.

He told The Courier: “Most of the very significant and persistent problems in NHS Tayside predate Grant Archibald’s tenure and I know that he has applied himself fully to attempting to address many of them.

“As a result, over the last four years, the ship has been steadied but there is little evidence of the organisation being set on better strategic course.”

But he added that re-emerging concerns about NHS Tayside budgets were a “worrying sign”.

Mr Marra added: “Mental health services remain in disarray. Key cancer services remain understaffed. There has been little to no progress on addiction service reform.

‘Culture shift’ required

“Primary care is in rapid decline with access to GPs and dentists more difficult by the day. Not all of this sits at the door of the chief executive and the failure of the SNP government to grip our NHS crisis is apparent across Scotland.

‘A change in leadership must also be seen as an opportunity for a shift in culture.

“NHS Tayside has been far too secretive and defensive about the challenges it faces and how it seeks to address them.

“Successive SNP health ministers and first ministers have sought to manage headlines about NHS Tayside rather than ensuring vital change is happening.

“We have outstanding staff working across our NHS and too many of them feel let down by leadership and starved of resources.”

The Scottish Government has been approached for comment.

‘Long-standing problems for successor to address’

Scottish Conservative shadow public health minister Tess White said Mr Archibald’s tenure came during the most difficult period in the health board’s history.

She said: “There are long-standing problems which his successor will have to address as a priority when they come in.

“Women are still travelling long distances for breast cancer treatment after the oncology scandal in Tayside.

“The SNP government has shown no interest in recruiting consultants to help save lives there.

“An ongoing shortage of GPs outside the central belt means practices are closing or reverting to the NHS.

“That has had a major impact on getting appointments in rural parts of Tayside, while inundating lists in the towns and cities.

“The Scottish Conservatives will continue to work with the chief executive to address these issues and hold the SNP government to account. I wish Mr Archibald all the best in his retirement.”