NHS Tayside’s beleaguered finance chief steps down after damning report points to new cash crisis

© DC Thomson
Lindsay Bedford appearing before the Public Audit Committee in Dundee in 2017.

NHS Tayside’s beleaguered finance director has stepped down after a damning report pointed to a new cash crisis within the health board.

Bosses have called for a “thorough independent external review” after learning £5.3 million of funding was improperly recorded in NHS Tayside’s accounts.

The health board now faces a probe into its financial transactions and the Scottish Government said it will “take action” to shore up management of the service after finance director Lindsay Bedford announced his sudden retirement on Tuesday.

Mr Bedford worked within the health service for 35 years before revealing he was calling time on his career.

The latest setback means the board will now not meet its target of hitting a £4m deficit for 2017-18 – although the full extent of the overspend will not be known until the conclusion of the review.

Dundee-based MSP Jenny Marra, who chairs the Public Audit Committee at Holyrood, said: “There are huge question marks here around what has happened and where this money has gone. There are also questions around the timing of the departure of the finance director of NHS Tayside.

“I will be looking for answers both as part of the Public Audit Committee and from NHS Tayside as to why this has happened.

“This is a further major example of poor financial management and the chaotic situation at the top of NHS Tayside.”

Staff were reportedly called to an “urgent meeting” on Tuesday when bosses announced Mr Bedford’s immediate departure, with concerned workers pointing to an exchange where management described the situation as “out of our hands”.

Lesley McLay, chief executive of the NHS Tayside, said “As soon as we were advised about the issue impacting on our financial outturn for 2017-18, I commissioned a formal internal review to be carried out by NHS Tayside’s strategic director of finance. This internal review will report back to NHS Tayside Board on Monday March 19.

“NHS Tayside has been the subject of much external scrutiny over the past 12 months and this change to the financial outturn so late in the financial year is very unexpected.

“The £5.3m of funds identified which are now the subject of the external review involving NHS Tayside, Scottish Government eHealth and NHS National Services Scotland, mean that we will now require additional brokerage.

“Of course, this is a highly unsatisfactory position for the board and therefore, we have already taken steps to include further savings in our 2018-19 financial plans to account for this.”

Health Secretary Shona Robison said the review was commissioned “as soon as this issue came to light”.

She added: “In the meantime, the Scottish Government will provide additional brokerage to ensure the financial position in NHS Tayside remains stable.”