Warnings about NHS Tayside finances ‘were not taken seriously’ says Auditor General

Written by Tom Freeman on 19 April 2018 in News

Auditors warned of “unusual transactions” at health board, Caroline Gardner tells MSPs

Caroline Gardner - Scottish Parliament

NHS chiefs did not heed warnings about the finances of crisis-hit NHS Tayside, Auditor General Caroline Gardner has said.

The country’s top spending watchdog gave the assessment in an appearance before the Scottish Parliament’s Public Audit Committee.

The health board was placed under emergency ministerial control and its leadership team replaced recently after reports it had misused charity funds on core services amid a cash crisis.

Warnings over the financial state of the health board have been raised by internal auditors and Audit Scotland since 2014.

Gardner said “unusual transactions” had been flagged in these reports.

“Internal auditors raised concerns about the retrospective transactions back in 2014 and it is included in the external auditors report as well,” Gardner told MSPs.

“There is a significant question about why, throughout the NHS system, warnings from auditors are not being taken seriously. The reason why is something you would need to ask of Scottish Government and of the board itself.”

NHS Tayside has received £45.3m of Scottish Government loans since 2012.

The Scottish Government’s director general of health and social care, Paul Gray, is also the chief executive of the NHS in Scotland.

In response to questions on the comments at First Minister’s Questions, Nicola Sturgeon said the irregular use of endowment funds was “at no point” flagged up to government.

“The health secretary has exercised her ministerial power, for the right reasons and in the right way, to make sure that the leadership of NHS Tayside is strengthened, and so that it can go on delivering high-quality patient care while undertaking the necessary transformation in its services,” she said.

Labour leader Richard Leonard called on health secretary Shona Robison – who is also the MSP for Dundee City East – to resign over the matter.

“The situation at NHS Tayside did not come as a surprise to anyone who was paying attention,” he said.

“Year after year, the health board sought bail outs, year after year Audit Scotland warned that that was not sustainable, and year after year the Scottish Government has been in denial about the scale of the problem.”

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