New ‘Health Tsar’ announced by NHS Lothian

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By ALEXANDER LAWRIE

A SCOTS health board is looking to hire a new tsar to help teach locals how to WALK their way to fitness.

But the post from NHS Lothian is already under fire after applicants were told they need a driving licence.

Edinburgh Council has teamed up with NHS Lothian to offer a graduate the new £26,000 per year position.

Along with the irony of requiring a driving licence, the actual role of employing someone to show the public the need to walk has also been questioned.

Critics have called the move “insulting and humiliating” and have demanded the money could be better spent in local health services.

The successful applicant would need to have the physical ability to handle and transport bulky goods, have a “high level of concentration required on an ongoing basis during meetings” and be able to respond to unexpected work demands.

Move attracts derision

It is understood the driving licence will be required because the co-ordinator will have to travel throughout the Lothians area to attend various events and meetings.

But, Mary Scanlon MSP, the Conservative’s health spokeswoman, was quick to add her derision to the idea.

She said: “There is not a person in Scotland unaware that walking is good for you. It is insulting and humiliating that the NHS and city council think people need someone on £26,000 and with a driving licence to nag at them why they should be walking.”

And a spokesman for the Association of British Drivers also had a laugh at the proposed move, while having a sly dig at the council’s ongoing tram debacle.

He said: “The council in Edinburgh are already doing an excellent job of making people walk round the city, so for someone else to be specialising in this seems to be a bit of a waste.”

The job description of the ‘walking tsar’ states the overall aim is to “increase the number of people walking in Edinburgh”.

Based at the NHS Lothian building at Lauriston, the position is said to involve “travelling” – but presumably not on two feet.

New role defended

Margaret Watt, chairwoman of the Scotland Patients Association, was also highly critical of the new position.

She said: “Are they having a laugh? Why are they wasting money on positions like this when we are short of nurses and short of staff?

“There are so many roles like this within health boards and they need to get their priorities right, especially at a time like this when they have to be even more prudent.”

But Dr Alison McCallum, NHS Lothian’s director of public health and health policy, defended the appointment of their fitness co-ordinator.

She said: “This is about encouraging people to realise that a lot can be gained from small changes in what they do.

“Just by walking that bit further during your normal day you can make real health gains, and walking is great because it’s not that daunting and it doesn’t involve special equipment or cost money.

“The concept of walking advisers is well established and we understand this is not the first such post in Scotland.”

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