Jason Leitch to step down as Scotland's national clinical director

The civil servant helped lead Scotland's response to Covid - but he has recently come under pressure over WhatsApp revelations.

Professor Jason Leitch, Scotland’s national clinical director who saw the nation through the Covid pandemic, has announced he is stepping down from the role.

The civil servant said it had been an “enormous privilege” to serve in the position from 2015, including during coronavirus lockdowns.

The Scottish Government said he will leave the post at the end of April with a replacement yet to be confirmed.

Leitch will also leave his post at NHS Tayside.

He has come under pressure recently from Covid bereaved families and opposition parties to resign following the release of expletive-fuelled WhatsApps during the UK Covid Inquiry.

It emerged he had deleted messages and gave then health secretary Humza Yousaf advice on how to remain exempt from mask-wearing rules.

The former dentist also accused one Tory MSP of “acting like a child” and described a Labour politician as a “smart a***”.

Prof Leitch revealed he planned to spend more time working with two large international charities he is a board member of, the Nazareth Trust in Northern Israel and the Indian Rural Evangelical Fellowship in rural south-east India.

In a statement announcing his resignation, Leitch said he was proud to have played a part in Scotland’s pandemic response.

He said: “It has been an enormous privilege to carry out this role and work closely with colleagues across the health and care sector in service of the patients, their families and carers.

“The NHS and social care system does remarkable work every day, and I am immensely proud of the teams I have had the privilege of being part of.

“The ongoing success of the Scottish Patient Safety Programme is globally recognised and has significantly improved the safety and reliability of care in many ways.

“The Covid pandemic was an unprecedented challenge for all countries and I am proud of my colleagues inside and outside Government for their incredible work.

“It was a privilege to be able to communicate with the public so directly and be part of that coordinated response, and I will forever be grateful for the public’s attention and willingness to follow the guidance – it saved lives.

“I have decided to look for new challenges across health and care after a break and to spend more time with the charities I work with. I wish colleagues well for the future.”

The First Minister said: “Jason Leitch has made a fantastic contribution to the health of the nation, leading work to reduce hospital-acquired infections and improve the quality of care in the NHS.

“The enduring success of the Scottish Patient Safety Programme is a testament to his work. He played a huge role in helping me and fellow ministers navigate the Covid pandemic by providing advice to help reach the best decisions, and by communicating so well with the public. I of course wish him every success in the future.”

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