CONCERNS over NHS Forth Valley’s leadership and performance have led to the Scottish Government assuming direct oversight.

The health board was transferred to stage 4 of 5, indicating “significant risks to delivery, quality, financial performance or safety, senior level external support required”.

Humza Yousaf, health secretary, escalated Forth Valley to stage 4 after notable failings of the health board to adhere to stage 3.

Inspectors found issues surrounding out-of-hours service, waiting times and the integration of social care as cause for the shift to level 4.

Union leaders have also highlighted the impact of an ongoing "staffing crisis" the service is facing.

Keith Brown, MSP for Clackmannanshire and Dunblane, welcomed the government help but described the change as cause for concern.

He said: “I am pleased that matters are being taken seriously and that this intervention has been made.

“Obviously, it is of real concern that the issues facing Forth Valley have reached the stage where an intervention of this nature is required.

“I have been raising various concerns about a range of issues relating to NHS Forth Valley and it is good to see the Scottish Government taking action.

“I very much hope that the additional support provided as a consequence of this escalation will lead to a quick improvement in the situation.”

Once the change is implemented, a transformation team will be brought in to observe the facility and report directly to the director general and the CEO of NHS Scotland.

This team will monitor the areas highlighted by inspectors and work on any improvements before another inspection can be made.

NHS trade union UNISON offered its full help in addressing the issues highlighted but warned it would not be enough to solve the issues NHS staff face.

A spokesperson for the union said: “UNISON will of course cooperate fully and work constructively with the transformation team put in place by the Scottish Government.

“We will though be making clear to them that no improvement plan will solve the fundamental issues faced by patients and staff if it does not tackle the recruitment and staffing crisis we face.

“Whatever issues there may exist with leadership and culture, tackling them will not deal with the fundamental issues of having too few staff to meet targets.”

The escalation follows evidence of failings from the health board including cases where a fifth bed was put into a four-bed room.

Vacancies were also reported at a high – with doctors sitting at 14 per cent of the share.

NHS Forth Valley said in a statement that they welcome the additional government support and that they are “committed to working closely with the Scottish Government to deliver any changes or improvements recommended by the Assurance Board”.

Alexander Stewart, Scottish Conservative MSP for Mid-Scotland and Fife described the intervention as a final warning for the health board.

He said: “This is a damning indictment of the board and senior management and this is a last chance saloon for NHS Forth Valley.

“Last week, at First Minister’s Questions, I exposed the toxic and bullying culture at the Larbert facility which saw five consultants resign within two weeks.

“I will continue to monitor the situation and there requires to be a sea-change in attitude and support of the staff who are going above and beyond to provide health care in the region.

“Communication at all levels in this health board needs to improve to ensure that Facilities across NHS Forth Valley are safe and fit for purpose.”

This follows reports in 2021 that saw claims of bullying arise from staff at Forth Valley Royal Hospital in Larbert.

The full inspection report by Health Improvement Scotland will be published in the coming weeks.