NHS Tayside still faces “significant challenges” according to a fifth emergency audit into its financial and operational management.
The report, conducted by the Auditor General Caroline Gardner, said a plan had been put in place but “substantial long-term financial and operational challenges” still had to be addressed by the beleaguered health board.
The Courier revealed earlier this week NHS Tayside will need to cut £20 million from its budget over the next two years, doing so with its so-called Transforming Tayside programme.
Ms Gardner notes in her report the board failed to meet the majority of its national service targets in 2018-19 and her concern key leadership vacancies are still to be filled.
Dundee-based Labour MSP Jenny Marra noted this was the fifth emergency report in a row to which Tayside has been subject.
Ms Gardner said: “It is a positive forward step that NHS Tayside now has a transformation plan, but moving away from the current ways of working will be difficult without well-developed and detailed implementation plans.
“So far there is little evidence of the sustainable service redesign and transformation that is critical to reducing costs while maintaining or improving services.
“The future is challenging for NHS Tayside. Effective and stable leadership will be critical in bringing about long-term service transformation.”
Bob McGlashan, RCN Scotland Senior Officer said: “The financial and performance challenges that NHS Tayside continues to face are significant. Throughout the transformation programme RCN Scotland has called for openness and consultation with the public and staff to ensure the focus remains on patient care.
“It is fundamental NHS Tayside does not lose sight of quality and safety while making services more cost effective.
“Whatever changes are made under the transformation programme, it is crucial they maintain the right number of staff with the right skills to ensure safe, high quality care for patients.”
Labour North East MSP Jenny Marra said: “While it is good news there is a plan in place, this is the fifth year in a row where the Auditor General for Scotland has had to issue an emergency report into the finances and governance of NHS Tayside.
“We need to see much faster improvement in agency nurse costs and prescribing to make sure local health services are robust for the future.”
Grant Archibald, NHS Tayside Chief Executive said: “We have just reported our mid-year position of 2019/20 and, while NHS Tayside is facing similar demands on its services as other Health Boards in Scotland, I am pleased to report that we are on track to deliver our predicted financial position by the end of this financial year.
“We have a three-year financial plan to return NHS Tayside to a break even position. This is delivering good results in its first year, and we are now developing more detailed plans for next year and the year after.
“The improvements made in our financial reporting and performance stand us in good stead as we move forwards and I am confident that we are making significant progress in the right areas.
“Our current mid-year position also shows improvements in our waiting times performances, in particular with our cancer waiting times. In January 2019, NHS Tayside performance for the 62-day Cancer Waiting Times Standard was 85%.
“A new approach by the cancer teams in Tayside has brought significant benefits for patients and NHS Tayside has now exceeded the national waiting times 95% target for treating cancer patients every month since June 2019.
“Our most recent figures show that in September, 95.9% of cancer patients received treatment within 62 days of their referral and 97.6% of patients were being treated within 31 days of their cancer diagnosis.
“NHS Tayside also continues to be the best performing Board against the 95% four-hour waiting time target for Emergency Department treatment. Our local figures indicate that NHS Tayside achieved 95% of patients being assessed, seen and treated with four hours in September compared to the NHS Scotland position of 89.3%.
“These are all indicators of an improving position which is allowing us to increase the pace of our Transforming Tayside programme. Our clinical teams are leading the way with a move into a new phase of transforming services and transforming costs to ensure future sustainability.
“We are also investing £164 million over the next five years in key hospital and healthcare projects, including the new Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and Children’s Theatre Suite at Ninewells, on which work is under way.
“We are not complacent about the work which still lies ahead and everyone is committed to keep making the difference in Tayside. It is really important that our staff are recognised for their hard work in delivering these improvements. They deliver high-quality health and social care to patients, service users and their families across Tayside every day and we would like to thank them for their continued efforts as we press ahead with our ambitious redesign of services.”