Page last updated at 10:06 GMT, Monday, 19 April 2010 11:06 UK

Scottish health board election nominations open

Paramedics take a patient into hospital
The SNP hopes its plan will make the NHS more responsive to the public

Nominations have opened for Scotland's first elected health boards, with 16 and 17-year-olds able to cast their vote for the first time.

NHS Fife and NHS Dumfries and Galloway will be the first to hold elections, as part of a £2.86m pilot scheme.

Elected health boards were promised by the SNP following a series of unpopular hospital closures.

The SNP hopes its plan will make health services more responsive to public concerns.

In the past, health boards have had elected councillors, but under the new plan each board would have a majority of elected members.

Everyone on the electoral register in the two areas will be sent ballot papers, which they will have to return by post by 10 June to vote.

Difficult decisions will no doubt still have to be taken but... these pilots will ensure decisions are taken with the full involvement of local people
Nicola Sturgeon
Health Secretary

However, evaluating the pilot could take up to five years, and the Scottish Parliament will have the final say on whether elections go ahead in other health board areas.

The Health Boards (Membership and Elections) Bill was unanimously approved in Holyrood last month.

Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said: "Having members of the public sitting on health boards is a commitment delivered - and reflects the broad support shown when this legislation received unanimous support in parliament.

"In another first, young people aged 16 and 17 will also have the right to vote.

"Difficult decisions will no doubt still have to be taken but with this kind of guaranteed voice, these pilots will ensure decisions are taken with the full involvement of local people as co-owners of the NHS."

'Major concern'

When the bill was passed last month, Dr Robert Cumming, chairman of the Scottish Health Campaigns Network, said: "The perception that many health board decisions have been taken without proper public consultation has been a major concern for a number of years.

"This view was vindicated by the Independent Scrutiny Panel's reports which reversed decisions to close A&E units at Monklands and Ayr hospitals.

"We support the view that there should be greater public ownership of health board decisions, which have often been seen as not representing the views of the community."

Elected members will receive the same level of remuneration as appointed members, currently about £7,500 per year.

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