NHS Scotland must reform and improve - Neil Gray

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Neil GrayImage source, PA Media

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Neil Gray is Scotland's sixth health secretary in 10 years

Scotland's new health secretary said the NHS needs to reform and improve.

Neil Gray, who was appointed to replace Michael Matheson, said he wanted to "drive down" waiting times.

Mr Matheson resigned ahead of the release of a report into an £11k data roaming bill racked up on his parliamentary iPad.

In his first interview since his appointment, Mr Gray said he would take his plans for reform to the cabinet in the near future after consulting officials, health service staff and trade unions.

He told The Sunday Show: "We need to see reform.

"We need to see improvements - and that includes improvements in productivity - and that is what I am going to be looking at in the coming weeks."

Mr Gray said the NHS was still recovering from the Covid pandemic and dealing with pressures linked to Brexit and inflation.

He also said it was seeing more people and faced "greater demands" across both the health and social care sectors.

But he added: "I want to continue to drive down waiting times, both for out-patient appointments and for in-patients, and for us to see a continued improvement in accident and emergency waiting times."

Image source, PA Media

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Mr Yousaf unveiled his new cabinet team on Thursday afternoon

Mr Gray, who led Mr Yousaf's SNP leadership campaign last year, had been the wellbeing economy, fair work and energy secretary since last March.

Mr Matheson announced he was standing down because he said he did not want a row over the bill - incurred during a family holiday to Morocco - to become a distraction from the government's work.

The £11,000 bill was initially paid out of the public purse.

When details of the fees emerged in November, Mr Matheson said the device had been used exclusively for parliamentary work.

He later admitted his sons had used the iPad's data as a hotspot to watch football matches. He apologised and repaid the fees.

The Scottish Parliament Corporate Body (SPCB) has been investigating whether Mr Matheson made an improper expenses claim.

Image source, Getty Images

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Health Secretary Michael Matheson said he did not want to become a distraction for the government

The SNP MSP was told on Thursday that he would shortly be issued with a draft report of the investigation's provisional findings. He has been given two weeks to respond.

Mr Matheson had served as a government minister for more than 12 years, including almost a year as health secretary.

He quit two days after Elena Whitham resigned as drugs minister for health reasons.

Mr Gray was an MP from 2015 to 2021, when he quit Westminster to seek election to the Scottish Parliament.

After winning the Airdrie and Shotts seat, he was appointed minister for culture, Europe and international development in January 2022. He was later given ministerial responsibility for Ukrainian refugees.

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