Yousaf 'disturbed' by reports NHS board spied on grieving families

It comes after claims NHSGGC paid a private firm to carry out to gather intelligence on selected people.

Humza Yousaf ‘disturbed’ by reports NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde spied on grieving families PA Media

Humza Yousaf has said he was “disturbed” by reports an under-fire health board monitored the social media posts of bereaved families.

The Sunday Mail reported earlier this week that NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGGC) paid a private firm to carry out “social listening” to gather intelligence on selected people.

Louise Slorance was one of the names on the list. Her husband Andrew died at Glasgow’s Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in 2020 after contracting Covid-19 and Aspergillus while receiving cancer treatment.

The fungal infection has been linked to construction issues and an inquiry has been established to investigate the links to patient deaths.

In 2017, 10-year-old Milly Main died at the flagship hospital after contracting an infection while on a cancer ward.

In a statement, NHSGGC confirmed Ms Slorance has now been removed from the “social listening” system.

During First Minister’s Questions (FMQs) on Thursday, Yousaf said the decision to remove the family from the list was the “right action”.

He faced fresh calls to sack the leadership of the health board by Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar, who said: “What the leadership of this health board is doing is disturbing and is just the latest in a litany of shameful incidents that has seen the leadership of this health board intimidate whistle-blowers, engage in a cover-up and frustrate the efforts of grieving families who are looking for justice.

“First Minister, you don’t have to wait for an inquiry to know that spying on the families of dead patients is wrong – you just needs to look for your conscience.

“So why won’t he finally do the right thing and sack the rotten leadership of this failing health board so we can get a fresh start and justice for these families?”

Ms Slorance, who was in the gallery for FMQs, told Labour beforehand that “empty words won’t cut it”, as she called for the NHSGGC leadership to be sacked.

In response, the First Minister said he took the words of Ms Slorance “with the upmost seriousness” and paid condolences to the family over the death of Mr Slorance – a Scottish Government employee who worked with Mr Yousaf during his time as transport minister.

Yousaf added: “I was also disturbed by reports that were in the newspapers in this regard.

“My understanding is, of course you would expect, that there is a level of media monitoring that does take place by a board, particularly one the size of Greater Glasgow and Clyde.

“But having listened to the concerns that have been raised by Louise Slorance, I think Greater Glasgow and Clyde have taken the right action by removing Louise Slorance from that media monitoring that they have.

“I would request Greater Glasgow and Clyde – and I have already – to listen compassionately and listen sensitively to those patients that have been impacted and have been affected.

“I understand they’re reviewing their media monitoring and communications processes, but they should absolutely at the heart of it have patients, particularly those who have been bereaved and those who have raised concerns about these particular issues.”

On Thursday, the health board said it had “never used private investigators to spy on patients and their families”.

The health board spokesman added: “The practice we use, called social media listening, plays a key role in issues management for companies and organisations worldwide by offering access to publicly available online and social conversations through perfectly legitimate and internationally accepted software companies that are used by tens of thousands of private and public sector organisations every day, such as the Meltwater platform, which is used by more than 27,000 global customers including NHSGGC.

“In monitoring public conversations surrounding our organisation through social listening, we erroneously reviewed public individual posts shared by the relative of a patient.

“This was an isolated case for which we have since apologised to the individual and we have ceased all such monitoring.”

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