NHS Tayside’s financial woes have deepened with confirmation the cash-strapped health board needs to find an extra £1 million to achieve its targeted savings.
An Audit Scotland report from last month showed the board was anticipating a £49.8 million funding black hole for 2017/2018.
At the time, health chiefs planned to make £45.8 million worth of efficiency savings, with the remaining £4 million funded through brokerage from the Scottish Government.
However, during a public audit scrutiny meeting at Holyrood yesterday, auditors told MSPs the health board now had a “savings gap” of an additional £1 million.
NHS Tayside insists it is attempting to improve its situation before the end of the financial year.
However, MSPs expressed concerns that the same board members who have overseen the board’s financial struggles are “still on watch” as the crisis deepens.
Scotland’s auditor general, Caroline Gardner, told politicians she could offer no guarantees that the board would be able to meet its financial targets.
Ms Gardner said she believed NHS Tayside’s board had a good understanding of the challenges it faces – but would not go so far as to say she believed targeted savings can be met.
Highlighting areas of particular concern, Ms Gardner said: “The level of staffing costs are higher than the average for boards in Scotland.
“Prescribing costs have increased by £2 million in a year.”
Following the meeting, NHS Tayside chairman, Professor John Connell, said: “The Auditor General for Scotland made it clear that she has confidence that the board and its senior managers have a full understanding of the complexity of the issues they are facing.
“At the beginning of this financial year, we forecast that we would make efficiency savings of £45.8 million.
“Our current forecast is £1 million short of this savings target, however, we are looking to close the gap in the remaining five months of 2017-18.
“While there is no doubt that there is a demanding programme of work to be delivered this year, our actions to date show we are moving towards a more sustainable future.”
Acting convener of the Public Audit and Post-Legislative Scrutiny Committee, Jackie Baillie MSP, said: “Our committee once again heard evidence on the extreme financial challenges faced by NHS Tayside.
“The health board has to save more than £200 million over the next five years and it’s likely to need further loans from the Scottish Government in the future.”
North East MSP Bill Bowman said: “I am concerned that NHS Tayside’s new team may not be able to work themselves out of this financial tangle.
“Much was made of the new finance director who has been tasked with bringing Tayside health board up to speed. He’s been with them for 33 years.
“I think Tayside needs external experience and perspective of reorganisation and restructuring to be brought to bear.”
A further report on NHS Tayside’s financial progress is expected in January.