Conditional support for health boards bill at stage 1

15/12/2008

Direct elections to health boards should be piloted alongside alternative public participation schemes if public involvement in health board decision-making is to be improved, according to a report from the Scottish Parliament’s Health and Sport Committee.

Direct elections to health boards should be piloted alongside alternative public participation schemes if public involvement in health board decision-making is to be improved, according to a report from the Scottish Parliament’s Health and Sport Committee.

Published today, the stage 1 Report on the Health Boards (Membership and Elections) (Scotland) Bill gives conditional support to proposals surrounding elections to health boards. However, the committee believes that no decision on the national roll-out of direct elections to health boards should be taken until the pilots have been completed and independently evaluated. This evaluation, says the committee, is vital for the Scottish Parliament to make an informed decision about whether to proceed with national roll-out.

Committee Convener Christine Grahame MSP said: “While we agree direct elections to health boards have the potential to improve public participation and involvement, we have not seen and heard enough evidence or enthusiasm to convince us that direct elections are necessarily the most effective way to achieve this goal.

"The results of the pilots for direct elections should be compared with the outcome of these additional pilots and developments in boards where no initiative takes place and the results published. That way we can make a fair assessment.”

The committee also made a number of further recommendations:

  • The Scottish Government should seriously consider using personal identifiers for postal votes in health board elections to ensure that health board elections are seen to be taken as seriously as other statutory elections.
  • The Scottish Government should reconsider proposals for a private young persons’ register.
  • The Cabinet Secretary should present a clear proposal and timetable for additional pilots.

Background
The Health Boards (Membership and Elections) (Scotland) Bill introduces direct elections to health boards by way of pilots that would last for up to seven years, with the roll-out of direct elections to take place through subordinate legislation only after an evaluation report has been laid before the Scottish Parliament.

The Bill proposes that health boards would consist of members appointed by Scottish Ministers and directly elected members. Draft regulations envisage an election using a form of the single transferable vote with people eligible to vote from age 16.