New NHS Highland interim chair “looking forward to the challenge”

A former principal of Sabhal Mòr Ostaig College, Professor Boyd Robertson assumed the role of interim chair following David Alston’s resignation last week.

The new interim chair of NHS Highland has told the Free Press he is “looking forward to the challenge” of leading the local health authority.

Professor Boyd Robertson – a former principal of Sabhal Mòr Ostaig College, the National Centre for Gaelic Language – was appointed as the interim chair of NHS Highland by the Cabinet Secretary for Health Jeane Freeman last Thursday following the resignation of health board chair David Alston.

Speaking to the Free Press this week, in one of his first interviews since taking over the post on an interim basis, Professor Robertson said he would “adopt a consultative approach” which would include a series of visits to hospitals and health centres across the Highlands.

He said: “My initial approach will be to meet staff across a wide range of provisions across the NHS.

“I want to adopt a consultative approach to get to know the whole area. While I have worked in Argyll before and live in Skye, and know these areas particularly well, and while I have worked with colleagues from all over the Highlands in the context of the University of the Highlands and Islands, I still want to get to know the medical provision throughout the area.

“To that end, I am going to be visiting hospitals, health centres and care homes – I am beginning that process today (Wednesday) at the Belford Hospital in Fort William for my first engagement and then I will visit Invernevis House care home.

Asked whether he had any hesitation taking up the position amid the current challenges of a QC-led inquiry into allegations of a decade-long culture of bullying within the local health authority and the implementation of the Ritchie Report process, he said:

“One has to be aware of the scale of the challenges in terms of staffing issues, financial issues and service delivery.

“I think it is important that someone who has a background as I have in public life, and who is a passionate believer in the NHS, should take on a responsibility when they are asked to do so.

“I am happy to do so and take on these major issues which confront the board – always bearing in mind that my role is an interim role.”

He went on to add: “I am wholly committed to the interim – it will be of the order of six months until the process of appointing a permanent chair is undertaken.

“The programme begins today, and I have already got engagements in the diary for Portree and Broadford.

“I am looking forward to the challenge and working in an entirely different aspect of public life.”

Article by Adam Gordon