Page last updated at 17:30 GMT, Thursday, 12 March 2009

Health board elections win vote

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Heath board elections would be held every four years under PR

Controversial plans for direct elections to health boards in Scotland have been passed by parliament.

MSPs voted for new laws to trial the scheme in two health board areas, before a nation-wide rollout is considered.

Direct elections have run into opposition from a number of health authorities and doctors' group the BMA.

But Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said they were vital to improve the public accountability of the NHS.

Under the scheme, each health board would see councillors and elected public members form a majority on boards, with anyone aged 16 and over eligible to vote.

'Vital services'

Opposition parties backed the scheme on condition that the pilots, to be carried out in 2010 at a cost of less than 3m, were evaluated properly before parliament was asked to make a decision on rolling it out.

The BMA warned money could be wasted and health boards could become politicised, while five of Scotland's 14 health authorities opposed direct health board elections outright.

A further five boards have expressed doubts about the move.

Ms Sturgeon said: "When vital services are at stake, it's absolutely essential that the voices of local people are listened to and the best way of achieving this is by actively involving them at the ballot box and in the boardroom."

If rolled out across Scotland, elections would be held every four years through proportional representation, using the Single Transferable Vote system.

MSPs earlier voted down a last-minute amendment, put forward by Labour MSP Bill Butler, for the majority of health board members to be directly elected.

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SEE ALSO
Health elections pass crunch vote
15 Jan 09 |  Scotland
How MSPs voted in the parliament
05 Mar 09 |  Scotland
NHS bosses oppose election plan
07 Dec 08 |  Scotland
'Support' for NHS election trial
26 Nov 08 |  Scotland
GPs oppose health board elections
31 Oct 06 |  Scotland

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