Cash-strapped NHS Tayside will need to impose more cuts in “key areas” to break even, the Scottish Government’s health chief has said.
The health board bosses have admitted they need to find £214 million worth of savings over the next five years just to break even, having been propped up by a series of Scottish Government crisis loans.
In a submission to Holyrood’s Public Petitions Committee, Paul Gray, the Scottish Government’s director general for health and social care, said that although outgoings had fallen in some parts of the service, more cutbacks need to be made.
He said: “There is some early evidence to suggest that the NHS Tayside’s financial recovery plans are taking effect, with spend reducing in areas such as nurse agency costs.
“While this improvement is encouraging, the Scottish Government will expect to see replication of these improvements in the other key areas of spend to gain sufficient assurance on the robustness of the overall plan over the next 1-2 years.”
A spokeswoman for NHS Tayside said that, as well as spend on agency staff, cuts could come in the prescribing of medicine, procurement and property, which could lead to buildings being sold off.
She confirmed the board “remains committed to a five-year programme of improvement and transformation which will see the reshaping of health services” and meeting the savings targets.
“As an example of where we will make these savings, the Effective Prescribing programme will look at reviewing and ensuring compliance to our prescribing formulary, which has been developed in partnership with clinicians to offer the safest and most cost-effective medicines available for patients,” she said.
“This along with other prescribing initiatives such as looking at reducing waste will deliver £5 million pounds of savings over the next two years.
“We are already seeing traction in our drive to reduce agency spend in 2016/17. For the financial period between April and December this year the spend on premium non-contract agency nursing and midwifery staff has reduced by £747,000.
“Building on this, our ongoing Workforce programme will reduce medical and nursing agency and locum spend by at least 25% in 2017/18.
“All our redesign is being clinically-led which means our clinicians look at all the evidence and best practice before making decisions and implementing plans to change our health and care services.”
Scotland’s spending watchdog said NHS Tayside was last year facing a budget deficit of more than £11.6m.
Caroline Gardner said there was a risk the authority would need a government bailout, despite receiving more than £24.3m from ministers since 2012.
Mr Gray, who will appear before MSPs on Thursday, said he expected repayments to start being made to the Scottish Government next year “when financial sustainability is achieved.”