Nicola Sturgeon says it is time to look at how health boards are run in the wake of the financial storm at NHS Tayside.
In her first comments to MSPs since the charity cash scandal blew up, the First Minister insisted her government reacted decisively by installing new leadership at the health board.
The SNP leader backed moves towards “regionalisation”, which would see Tayside working more closely with neighbouring boards such as NHS Grampian.
But she distanced herself from a call from former health secretary Alex Neil, the SNP MSP, to reduce the number of territorial health boards in Scotland from 14 to three.
Appearing before a committee of senior MSPs, Ms Sturgeon said the Scottish Government handled the Tayside issue “extremely seriously with the actions that were taken to renew and change the leadership”.
She said the Tayside situation and the regionalisation of some services, meant “this is an appropriate time to look at governance for good, positive reasons.”
“I think we need to allow regionalisation to evolve in the way that it is,” she added.
“I’m not – because I think it distracts a lot of people in the health service – of the view that we should go for hard-wired structural changes to embed that in a firmer way.
“This means that the health board continues to be the building block, so that link of that accountability that we have just now, continues to be I think the appropriate one.
“But of course, as these issues develop that’s something we will ….continue to consider.”
It emerged this month that health chiefs in Dundee dipped into a donations fund to cover general expenditure.
In March, it was revealed that digital healthcare cash was re-used to mask the true extent of the board’s financial woes.
An investigation by the charities regulator OSCR is underway, which is looking at the behaviour of the Tayside board over its use £2.7m of endowment fund cash, as well as probing whether other health boards are implicated.
The total sum of bail-out loans from the Scottish Government to the board is expected to exceed £45m this year.
Caroline Gardner, the Auditor General, is updating a Holyrood committee on Tayside’s financial position on Thursday.