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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 June, 2005, 16:26 GMT 17:26 UK
McConnell blamed for NHS 'fiasco'
SNP Holyrood leader Nicola Sturgeon
Nicola Sturgeon called for the NHS 24 buck to stop with Jack McConnell
The Scottish National Party has called on First Minister Jack McConnell to accept full responsibility for the NHS 24 "fiasco".

Holyrood leader Nicola Sturgeon made the call during First Minister's Questions after reading a leaked copy of a report on the service.

It identified a lack of management by the Scottish Executive and she claimed this could have put lives at risk.

Mr McConnell promised fast action in responding to the report's findings.

The review was ordered by the government in February after problems with the telephone advice service became apparent.

Will the first minister accept that the buck stops with him?
Nicola Sturgeon

Thursday's publication outlined a list of interim recommendations with the full report due to be released in September.

Ms Sturgeon said the report disclosed a number of problems within NHS 24.

She said these included a lack of management on the part of the executive, a lack of arrangements for rural communities and staff shortages.

"A government that had been doing its job properly would have known about the problems in NHS 24 and it would have taken action to sort them out," said Ms Sturgeon.

"This report shows a lack of management, a lack of leadership, and an approach that was tantamount to sticking your head in the sand faced with problems in this vital health service.

Jack McConnell speaking in the Chamber
Jack McConnell said fast-action would be taken on the review findings

"Will the first minister accept that the buck stops with him?"

Mr McConnell replied that the report had been ordered with the aim of finding answers to the questions Ms Sturgeon posed.

He said it was important to keep the report "in perspective" and told MSPs the service had handled more than one million calls with 86 complaints.

He said: "It's precisely because we take responsibility for these matters that we launched the review in February, that this interim report has been produced so quickly.

"The health minister will respond exceptionally quickly to implement the recommendations of the report and ensure the board and management of NHS 24 - and the management of the executive health department - respond correctly in advance of the final report due in September.

People rely on NHS 24 when they are at their most vulnerable and this executive has completely disregarded that fact by not ensuring that adequate provisions were in place for patient care
Dr Nanette Milne
Scottish Tories

"There were serious issues to be addressed, an experienced individual was asked to compile a report, and I believe he has done that very effectively."

Following the exchanges in the chamber, the Conservatives hit out at the executive for its failings within the NHS 24 service.

The party's health spokeswoman, Dr. Nanette Milne, said: "People rely on NHS 24 when they are at their most vulnerable and this executive has completely disregarded that fact by not ensuring that adequate provisions were in place for patient care.

"Too many people are suffering physically and mentally because of the failings of this executive when it comes to health and something must be done immediately.

"Targets, centralisation and waste must be stopped and power must be devolved back to the health professionals who know best."

NHS 24 savaged by official review
02 Jun 05 |  Scotland
NHS 24 head announces departure
23 May 05 |  Scotland
Call delays prompt NHS 24 inquiry
24 Feb 05 |  Scotland
Influx of calls to NHS helpline
08 Jan 05 |  Scotland
Scots doctors no longer on call
31 Dec 04 |  Scotland

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