NHS boards 'struggling to break even'
'Unprecedented' savings needed in health board spending, warns Audit Scotland
Hospital - PA
Scottish health boards are under such financial pressure some will be unable to break even, spending watchdog Audit Scotland has warned.
Although NHS spending forms the biggest share of the Scottish Government budget, the report warns increases in funding are not keeping up with demand.
As a whole the performance of NHS Scotland against six of its eight waiting times targets has declined, with only the drug and alcohol treatment standard being met last year.
The rising cost of drugs and an ageing workforce have contributed to the problem, the report said.
Opposition parties have warned the report shows an NHS which is "failing", but Health Secretary Shona Robison said the Government had a strategy to reform the service.
However, Audit Scotland said workforce planning had not reflected government strategy to shift care into communities.
Caroline Gardner, Auditor General for Scotland, said: "Major challenges lie ahead for the NHS in Scotland. There are growing pressures on health boards which are struggling to juggle service delivery and progressing major reform whilst also managing considerable financial challenges.
"The Scottish Government has had a policy to shift the balance of care for over a decade but despite multiple strategies for reform, NHS funding has not changed course."
The Royal College of Nursing said it had warned for years about the impact of a "boom and bust" workforce. Scotland director Theresa Fyffe said:
“RCN Scotland has been warning of the increasing pressures on NHS Boards and integration authorities for some years now and it is clear from the Auditor General’s report that we need to change the way we work in order to meet the increasing demand on services. How many more reports will be published by Audit Scotland before action is taken? Patients, staff and families deserve a decisive response from the Health Secretary.
“We will only be able to meet the growing demand on our health and care services if brave decisions are taken now on how services are to be delivered in the future."
Scottish Conservative health spokesman Donald Cameron said the report was "damning" while his Scottish Labour counterpart Anas Sarwar said the NHS was "in real distress" and called for Robison to make an emergency statement to parliament.
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