A PATIENTS’ champion must be appointed urgently following the cervical screening scandal, the Liberal Democrats have said.
Alex Cole-Hamilton, the party’s health spokesman, said it had been nearly a year since the Scottish Parliament agreed the need for a patient safety commissioner, but it still had not happened.
He added that the recent scandal of women being excluded from cervical cancer screening, which saw one woman die, was further evidence there should be more urgency to the appointment.
It was revealed last month, after an audit, that around 430 women were incorrectly excluded from the programme in Scotland over the past 24 years.
Scottish Government health minister Maree Todd told MSPs that the audit in December 2020 “discovered a very small number of women had developed cervical cancer after being wrongly excluded from the screening programme following a hysterectomy”.
Mr Cole-Hamilton said the scandal had been covered up for six months, and it was essential a patients’ champion was now appointed.
He said: “Scottish ministers chose not to disclose the serious failures in cervical cancer screening for months. This week Clinical Director Jason Leitch confirmed it was a political decision to only reveal what had happened at the last possible moment on the last day of the parliamentary term.
“Women have been failed. Thousands will be reeling at this news. They deserved to know about the risk to their health months ago.”
He said it indicated the need for “an independent commissioner with the power to stand up for patients in the face of such decisions and daunting systems. “
He continued: “They would be able to stand up for these women, and others including the women left in constant pain by mesh implants and the families affected by the devastating hospital contamination scandal.
“There is an urgent need for a powerful independent figure to champion the rights of patients, listen to the valuable insight that they can bring and secure improvements to safety and treatment.
“It has already been almost a year since cross-party agreement was struck. The government must now get on with it and announce when this will happen.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The Patient Safety Commissioner will focus on ensuring that the voice of patients is taken into account In the Scottish healthcare system and particularly within the safety system.
“However it is vital that we listen to the views of patients and members of the public about what exactly they want from a Patient Safety Commissioner, and what that role should look like.
“That is why we conducted a public consultation which was published on 5 March and ran for 12 weeks. The consultation responses are currently being analysed.
“Our commitment to patient safety has been, and remains, key to delivering healthcare”.