IT WOULD no doubt be an understatement to say that the last two weeks has done very little to inspire public confidence in this SNP government's ability to manage our NHS.

First, we heard that NHS management had held a meeting where they discussed the possibility of introducing a 'two-tier' NHS, where certain patients would be asked to contribute towards the costs of their treatment.

But then news broke which, here in Clackmannanshire, hit rather close to home. Last week, it was announced that NHS Forth Valley has moved to Stage 4 of NHS Scotland's National Performance Framework, meaning that the Scottish Government themselves will now be directly overseeing the delivery of NHS services across Forth Valley.

Moving to Stage 4 means there is a significant risk to the delivery of services across Forth Valley and is a damning indictment of the health board's senior management, as well as a reflection on the Scottish Government's poor leadership of Scotland's NHS as a whole.

All those who depend on the vital healthcare services offered by NHS Forth Valley will be disappointed that this step was necessary. But the myriad problems that have occurred with this health board over recent months means that this development is hardly surprising.

Healthcare services across Scotland have been struggling for some time now, with Health Secretary Humza Yousaf having failed to put an effective recovery plan in place following the pandemic. But NHS Forth Valley has been performing worse than the Scottish average on nearly every possible measurement.

For several weeks this autumn, over 60% those attending NHS Forth Valley A&E services had to wait more than four hours to be seen.

A similar story is seen when looking at overall waiting times, mental health assessments, and out of hours services.

There have also been several reports of a toxic bullying culture and poor working conditions at Forth Valley Royal Hospital, which led to the resignation of five respiratory consultants over just two weeks.

I have raised these issues repeatedly with both the Health Secretary and with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, but have yet to receive concrete answers on what action is being taken.

Many of the problems within NHS Forth Valley date back to last year, yet have been allowed to continue getting worse until government intervention became unavoidable.

It has been clear for some time that serious action was needed to address the crisis that is developing within our local healthcare services.

The hardworking frontline staff within our hospitals are being made to fight a losing battle against management and facilities that are currently not fit for purpose. Inevitably, it is patients who are paying the price for this.

Those who depend on these services deserve better than this. They also deserve answers about how and why things have been allowed to reach this stage.

I will continue to hold this government to account until they receive these answers, and until patients across Forth Valley finally receive the high quality healthcare services they rightly expect.