Health secretary: NHS efficiency savings 'may be something to reconsider'
Health Secretary Humza Yousaf has admitted that “efficiency savings” to the NHS “may be something to reconsider” in light of the health service’s need for digital investment.
Speaking as the keynote address at Holyrood Connect’s Digital Health and Care conference 2022, the health secretary spoke about funding digital innovation in the NHS, saying that “the public sector is far behind where we should be in the digital space, and we’ve got to be upfront about that”.
He gave the example of being able to book cinema tickets two weeks in advance, but being forced to phone up GP surgeries at 8am for a chance of booking an appointment.
However, after the keynote address, Yousaf was asked how this tallies up with the efficiency savings demanded of the public sector by the Scottish Government, which will result in a three per cent cut to digital budgets.
Yousaf said: “I take your point about efficiency, but it’s actually broader than that, it’s not just digital. At a time where we’re going to be investing more and more into health and social care services, I do take your point.
“At the same time, if we can do things more efficiently, that’s not bad thing at all. We’ve committed to increase the funding for the NHS and social care over the course of this parliamentary term and that’s not something we’re going to roll back.”
Health journalist and broadcaster Pennie Taylor, who chaired the Q&A session, interjected: “But three per cent claw-backs, or efficiency savings, in digital right now, when what it needs is an injection of money?”
Yousaf replied: “If we can do things more efficiently, that’s no bad thing, but I take your point, maybe that is something to reconsider.”
During his keynote speech, the health secretary touched on the pace of change in the public sector and the need to find digital, remote solutions to healthcare in Scotland.
While the pandemic has quickened the pace of this change, Yousaf said the need for digital solutions was already present. He added: “When it comes to the recovery of the NHS and social care, which I have to be honest, is going to be years, the digital health and care solutions that we have embedded during the pandemic has to be a bedrock of that recovery.”