This is my reply to a blog that was posted in the Holyrood Magazine:
Thursday 13th July 2017
I read the blog post titled ‘Official Interference’ written by you in the Holyrood Magazine on the 7th July 2017.
It is welcome to see this matter considered further. I can be a bit slow on the uptake but I wasn’t entirely sure of the main points that you were trying to get across? I am not sure what you mean by “the real story” being about “accusations” of “subjectivity”? I am also not sure what Holyrood’s views may be on the necessary independence of report writers and the public accountability of civil servants?
Let me be entirely open. I have found my experience of communicating with senior civil servants working for the Department of Health and Social Care (DGHSC) most unsettling. In my communications I have put patients first. I have been a longstanding advocate for ethical considerations in healthcare.
As a public servant (NHS doctor) I have been as open and transparent about my experiences as possible – and I have shared all that I can on my website Hole Ousia.
Over some years I have become aware that my personal experience of communication with senior civil servants has been shared by a significant number of others, many of whom have been labelled by DGHSC as “vexatious” or having a “grievance”.
DGHSC civil servants would seem to follow an approach that Prof Walter Hume described as familiar “the various techniques used by bureaucratic organisations to avoid responsibility when things go wrong: these include silence, delay, evasion, buck-passing and attempts to discredit complainants.”
Following the Times report by Helen Puttick and the subsequent report in the Scotsman, I compiled this blog-post:
Honesty and Openness: ‘not an edited official tale’
I should say that I am just an NHS doctor who has a number of interests and that I have neither any skills in politics nor in journalism. I am however interested in ethics and this includes consideration of the integrity of those who occupy positions of genuine power (such as elected politicians and publically paid senior civil servants).
On becoming First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon stated:
“I intend that we will be an open and accessible Government” (26th November 2014)
When giving evidence to the Scottish Parliament, the Director General for NHS Scotland, Paul Gray said:
“I think transparency in the NHS makes sense” (29 January 2014)
I would suggest that there is a growing public concern about senior civil servants working for the Scottish Government in terms of what they say and do.
The Commission on Parliamentary Reform’s “Report on the Scottish Parliament” published on the 20th June 2017 outlined steps that might help improve parliamentary approaches to ensuring necessary accountability of the Scottish Government. I have been made aware, for example, of a number of Petitions under review by the Scottish Parliament that may have been closed as a result of behind-closed-doors “advice” by senior civil servants working for the Scottish Government.
I will stop there Tom. No need to reply unless you so wish.
One closing point. It is most demoralising for hard-working NHS staff to hear repeatedly repeated, parrot-like, from Scottish Government “spokespeople” of “record NHS levels of staffing”. This fighting of reality is not helpful and suggests the sort of “subjectivity” that perhaps you were alluding to in your piece for the Holyrood Magazine?
I will be staging a peaceful protest (I am not party political) about the integrity of senior officials working for the Scottish Government this August at the Martyrs Monument.
Dr Peter J Gordon (writing in my own time and in a personal capacity)