SNP ministers have been labelled “unthinkably reckless” after cancelling all future meetings of the Scottish Government’s NHS remobilisation group.
The NHS remobilisation group was an advisory panel set up by former health secretary Jeane Freeman.
The group was tasked with helping ensure health and social services maintain “a strong focus on quality, equity and person-centred care” with the “necessary constraints of the Covid-19 response”.
But the group has been “paused” by Health Secretary Humza Yousaf and has not met since April.
Documents released under Freedom of Information show government officials confirming the remobilisation group “was paused following the election in May to give the new Cabinet Secretary and officials time to consider how best to undertake stakeholder engagement as we remobilise and recover the NHS in this next stage of the pandemic”.
Mr Yousaf, in response to a parliamentary question from Labour’s health and Covid recovery spokesperson, Jackie Baillie, has confirmed that “all meetings scheduled to take place after Friday 16 April have been cancelled”.
Government documents have also confirmed that ministers were warned in March about the risks to the NHS in the coming months.
At the group’s meeting on March 5, the outgoing health secretary suggested that workforce planning should be an agenda item at an upcoming meeting, but this was not considered pre-election and then never took place.
Scottish Labour has accused Mr Yousaf of trying to “bury his head in the sand” by ignoring these warnings.
Ms Baillie said: “It is astounding that the government would scrap this key group when our NHS is teetering on the brink of a full blown crisis.
“The SNP insist that NHS remobilisation is a priority – but this unthinkably reckless move shows that isn’t the case.
“The group was sounding the alarm on mounting pressures months ago, but Humza Yousaf decided to bury his head in the sand until things reached crisis point.”
She added: “As our NHS falls deeper and deeper into chaos it’s clear that responsibility lies squarely with the SNP. Instead of listening to the group, they scrapped it completely.
“They must urgently start listening to stakeholders and those on the ground, so they can get things up and running again before winter bites.”
The Scottish Government has been approached for comment.