PROFESSOR Jason Leitch has announced he will step down as national clinical director.

Leitch became a household name in Scotland during the Covid-19 pandemic, appearing frequently on television and radio in order to explain the coronavirus rules and the progression of the virus.

Leitch said that he would leave the post of national clinical director in April in order to "look for new challenges across health and care after a break".

The top scientific adviser said: “It has been an enormous privilege to carry out this role and work closely with colleagues across the health and care sector in service of the patients, their families and carers.

“The NHS and social care system does remarkable work every day, and I am immensely proud of the teams I have had the privilege of being part of.

“The ongoing success of the Scottish Patient Safety Programme is globally recognised and has significantly improved the safety and reliability of care in many ways.

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“The Covid pandemic was an unprecedented challenge for all countries and I am proud of my colleagues inside and outside Government for their incredible work.

“It was a privilege to be able to communicate with the public so directly and be part of that co-ordinated response, and I will forever be grateful for the public’s attention and willingness to follow the guidance – it saved lives.

“I have decided to look for new challenges across health and care after a break, and to spend more time with the charities I work with. I wish colleagues well for the future.”

Leitch, who worked as a oral surgery consultant before gaining a role within the Scottish Government, has served as national clinical director since 2015.

The National: Jason Leitch became a household name during the coronavirus pandemicJason Leitch became a household name during the coronavirus pandemic

He will also leave his post at NHS Tayside when he steps down.

First Minister Humza Yousaf thanked Leitch for his work.

He said: “Jason Leitch has made a fantastic contribution to the health of the nation, leading work to reduce hospital acquired infections and improve the quality of care in the NHS.

“The enduring success of the Scottish Patient Safety Programme is testament to his work.

“He played a huge role in helping me and fellow Ministers navigate the Covid pandemic by providing advice to help reach the best decisions, and by communicating so well with the public. I of course wish him every success in the future.”

Former first minister Nicola Sturgeon also thanked Leitch for his public service. 

On X/Twitter, she said: "Wishing @jasonleitch  all the very best for the future.

"I always valued the advice and support he gave me, first as Health Secretary and then FM - not least during Covid when he was a key part of the @scotgov team and a reassuring presence for many across the country. His contribution to government will be missed."

Health Secretary Neil Gray also wished Leitch well following the announcement. 

"Very sad that @jasonleitch has decided to resign," said Gray. 

"He has contributed an immense amount to our health service – most recognisably through Covid, but also to patient safety not just in Scotland but for England too.

"His talents will be much missed from Government and by me personally" 

It comes after messages between Leitch and Yousaf were made public as part of the UK Covid Inquiry.

One exchange involved Leitch sharing his impressions of various MSPs, calling Tory MSP Edward Mountain “rude” and Labour MSP Daniel Johnson “a smart arse”.

It led to calls from the Scottish Conservatives for Leitch to resign.