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‘This is the right thing to do’: NHS Tayside agrees to refund charity cash used to plug ailing finances

John Brown, interim chairman, health secretary Shona Robison and the new NHS Tayside chief executive Malcolm Wright.
John Brown, interim chairman, health secretary Shona Robison and the new NHS Tayside chief executive Malcolm Wright.

NHS Tayside has vowed to repay charity donations which were used to plug its ailing finances.

At an extraordinary meeting of the health board at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee on Thursday, members agreed to refund endowment money which had been transferred and “retrospectively applied to the programmes of work” in 2014.

New NHS Tayside chief executive Malcolm Wright and interim chairman John Brown brought the proposal forward at the meeting.

The board has required loans from the Scottish Government, known as brokerage, to balance its books for several years.

The crisis deepened last month when it emerged £5.3 million of money intended for eHealth funding had been used to make the board’s deficit look better.

It was then revealed that in 2014 a sum money from NHS Tayside’s charitable endowment fund, reported to be at least £2.71 million, had been used to pay for a new IT system.

A huge chunk of the cash, typically used to fund patient comforts or furnish day suites for families, was used to bankroll “digital healthcare” after a financial deficit was discovered in NHS Tayside’s 2013-14 balance sheet.

The scandal prompted Scottish health minister Shona Robison to call for former chairman Professor John Connell to resign, which he did last week. She also said chief executive Lesley McLay, who is now absent from work, was in an “untenable” position.

Speaking at Thursday’s meeting, Mr Brown said: “For our staff and our patients, we believe this is the right thing to do.

Robison accused of NHS Tayside ‘smokescreen’ as pressure mounts on health secretary

“The decision made by the Board today doesn’t pre-empt the findings of the formal inquiry into Tayside NHS endowment funds by the Office of the Scottish Charity regulator (OSCR).

“It does mean that we can move forward, start to rebuild confidence and ensure there are no distractions to continuing to do what we do best and that is making sure everyone in Tayside receives high-quality and effective care and treatment.”

Following the announcement, SNP MSP Mrs Robison added: “Chief executive Malcolm Wright and chair John Brown have acted quickly to listen to the concerns of patients and staff.

Call for full probe into “shocking” reports that NHS Tayside bosses dipped charity funds to plug ailing finances

“This move to make good on the historic use of endowment funds will allow the board to fully concentrate on the important task of increasing public confidence and ensuring long term financial stability.

“I have authorised further brokerage to NHS Tayside, subject to confirmation of the value, to allow this to happen.

“NHS Scotland endowment funds operate within legal frameworks regulated by the OSCR and we expect trustees to comply fully with the legislation.

“In addition to writing to all boards asking them to provide assurances that endowment funds are being used appropriately, OSCR has agreed to review the evidence provided.

“Should OSCR determine that spending of endowment funds by any board was inappropriate, I would expect it to be paid back swiftly and in full.”

Mr Wright said: “There is lots of evidence of high quality care being delivered in Tayside and there is a real determination to deal with the challenges facing Tayside in an open and transparent way and a willingness to work together as an organisation.”

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