Absence of islanders on Western Isles Health Board

Apart from the chair of the Western Isles Health Board, none of the non-executive directors directly appointed by SNP ministers lives in the Western Isles.

Friday, 10th December 2021, 10:42 am
Just like the CalMac quangos, questions are being asked over the lack of local representation on the Western Isles Health Board

Four little-noticed appointments earlier this year broke a long tradition of strong local identity with recognisable board members from communities throughout the Western Isles.

A former vice-chair of the Board, Malcolm Smith, expressed astonishment at the scale of change: “I can’t see how the pool of local expertise and experience the Board was able to draw on in the past has suddenly dried up.”

Attention was drawn to the si tuation by the appointment of Tim Ingram to the board of CalMac. His biographical details include a reference to him being a member of the Health Board which might have been interpreted as a credential for his CalMac appointment.

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However, as reported elsewhere in this week’s Gazette, Mr Ingram’s connection – apart from his quango appointments – is limited to “holidaying” in some unspecified location. He runs a small consultancy in Aberdeen and advises Tyne Tunnels on safety.

The Gazette asked the Health Board for the general areas in which its members reside, making it very clear we were not asking for addresses. This was declined on data protection grounds and we were advised to seek the information through a Freedom of Information request.

Fortunately for the interests of transparency, the networking network LinkedIn proved more helpful. It revealed another Board member, Abdul Elghedafi, as “a procurement lawyer at South London Legal Partnership” who is on the UK Government’s Transport Advisory Committee and is a director of North East College, which is another Scottish ministerial appointment.

Another member is Jocelyn McConnachie who lives in the south coast town of Hastings, at a particularly impressive distance from the islands. Ms McConnachie, whose LinkedIn history includes ‘Commerical Director, Caledonian MacBrayne 2015-16’, is also a director of a housing association based in Hampshire.

A fourth appointee, Sheena Wright, spent her career in the NHS, including a stint in the Western Isles between 2008-09. She is understood to live in the Central Belt. Ms Wright is designated as the board’s “whistleblowing champion”.

The board is chaired by Gillian McCannon who has extensive local experience in the NHS. The unavoidable “local” appointees are Dana Murray as employee director, Dr David Rigby from the Area Clinical Forum and Uisdean Robertson representing the local authority.

Malcolm Smith said: “I was on the Board for an eight-year period, latterly as vice-chair. During that time we had local non-executive directors with advanced qualifications and experience in a wide range of areas like business, risk assessment, finance, education and community engagement, as well as extensive knowledge of local networks.

"It was always very important that non-executive directors were in touch with the community and had first-hand understanding of island circumstances. I can’t see how the pool of local expertise and experience the Board was able to draw on in the past has suddenly dried up.”