NHS Tayside patients ‘could face longer waits’ due to financial woes
NHS Scotland chief executive Paul Gray admits NHS Tayside face tough decision on how to make savings
Patients in Tayside could face longer waits for treatment as the health board struggles to balance its books, MSPs have heard.
NHS Scotland boss Paul Gray was brought in front of the Scottish Parliament’s Public Audit Committee after Scotland’s Auditor General had said NHS Tayside’s finances were in “the most challenging position she had seen”.
Government bailouts for the health board are expected to reach almost £36m by the end of 2017-18, while the boards is expected to make ‘efficiency savings’ to cut costs.
Auditor Caroline Gardner said the levels of efficiency savings now required in Tayside – agreed at £46.5m – were “unprecedented”.
The health board says it needs five years to get back onto an even keel.
Gray said he had discussed with the health board how services might be impacted during this time.
“We are treading that line between confidence in the senior leadership of NHS Tayside, which is right and appropriate for us to do, and also assuring ourselves… that what they’re doing is credible and soundly based.”
However he acknowledged the solution would “not be straightforward”.
“One of the contingencies a board can deploy would be to slow down the rate of treating people in some areas, for example” he said.
“Do you mean longer waiting lists,” asked convener Jenny Marra.
“Yes. Let’s not beat around the bush. Of course it would. It would mean somebody who might have been treated at the end of March might not be treated until April.”
Gray said he would consider any contingency proposals by the board by the beginning of March.
Further support to the health board is also being given to tackle “a time lag on the necessary culture change to bring about prescribing savings”, he said.
NHS Tayside is joined by NHS Ayrshire and Arran and NHS Fife in receiving financial brokerage from the Scottish Government this year.
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