Editorial: David Alston departure offers chance for “encouraging” replacement

David Alston tenure of almost three years as NHS Highland Chair came to an end this morning (Thursday) with his resignation.  Picture: Gair Fraser.

We have sympathy with David Alston. He was parachuted into the chair of NHS Highland three years ago. As a standing non-executive director he must have had an inkling of the dysfunction of the organisation, but only an inkling.


Allegations of bullying have been rife –  both internal and external. The culture of bullying which had been allowed to grow within the organisation not only affected its staff. It had also spread, as we on the west coast were fully aware, to NHS Highland executives’ dismissive treatment of the public.


The very people they were well-paid to serve found themselves hectored and their views dismissed by an east coast management hell-bent on forcing through its own cavalier agenda of damaging cuts and ill-considered “reforms”.


David Alston resigns as NHS Highland chair with immediate effect.

David Alston found himself having to defend people and proposals of which he cannot possibly have approved. It was a circle which he was incapable of squaring, and he will be glad to put the unhappy experience behind him.


From our perspective, his replacement on an interim basis by Boyd Robertson is encouraging, despite Professor Robertson’s lack of experience in the health service.


Boyd Robertson is a native of North Uist and an alumnus of Portree High School who finished a ten-year stint as principal of Sabhal Mòr Ostaig last spring.

A former principal of Sabhal Mòr Ostaig College, Professor Boyd Robertson will assume the role of interim chair following Mr Alston resignation.

He knows the west coast, he knows Skye, Raasay, Lochalsh and South West Ross and their requirements. He will already be familiar with the Ritchie Report and its implementation. It is possible that his appearance as a new broom will be an asset rather than a hindrance: Boyd Robertson owes no allegiance to any of the individuals who have driven NHS Highland to its present sorry condition.


Along with his fellow Hebridean, the new chief executive Iain Stewart, Boyd Robertson has the opportunity to reform NHS Highland, particularly in regard to its services to our western parishes and islands.


We wish him luck. We suspect he will need it.


David Alston resigns as NHS Highland chair with immediate effect.