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NHS Tayside still needs to make savings to achieve sustainability

Ninewells Hospital in Dundee - Image credit: Wikicommons 3.0

NHS Tayside still needs to make savings to achieve sustainability

NHS Tayside still needs to make savings to achieve financial sustainability, a report from Audit Scotland has said.

In its annual audit of the board for 2019-20, Audit Scotland highlighted the board’s improved financial management and service performance, as well as better governance, but said risks related to its high running costs remained.

It also noted changes to mental health services following an independent inquiry.

The health board decreased waiting times for some services and its financial position improved, with recurring savings of more than £14m made in 2019-20.

However, the board needed £7m from the Scottish Government to break even, the eighth year in a row it has required financial assistance.

The board's current three-year financial plan from 2020-21 aims to achieve break-even each year but “significant financial savings” need to be made to achieve this, the auditor said.

It reported that the pace of transformation of services has been slow, although COVID has increased the rate of change in some areas.

NHS Tayside continues to have an expensive operating model, spending more on staffing, in-patient costs and prescriptions than the Scottish average.

And it still has a number of senior leadership posts it needs to fill on a permanent basis.

The auditor said that since March 2020, COVID-19 had had a significant impact on the focus and priorities of NHS Tayside and the board now needs to reflect the impact of the pandemic in its financial plan and transformation programme.

In February 2021 the Auditor General will publish his annual NHS in Scotland report, which will comment more widely on how prepared the NHS in Scotland was for a pandemic, how it responded and the challenges that lie ahead.

Stephen Boyle, Auditor General for Scotland, said: “NHS Tayside has made some clear progress under its new leadership team after a number of very challenging years, but it still faces a number of risks.

“The board knows that achieving financial stability lies in changing the way its services are designed and delivered.

“We've already seen how COVID-19 has accelerated innovation in some areas.

“It's now essential that NHS Tayside builds on that good work and increases the pace of change in priority services.”

Anas Sarwar, acting convener of Holyrood’s Public Audit and Post Legislative Scrutiny Committee, said: “It is heartening to learn that, under the new executive leadership team of NHS Tayside, progress is now being made in terms of the recurring financial, performance and governance challenges it has faced.

“But it is also clear that the pace of change must now increase if financial plans of breaking even over the next three years are to be achieved.

“Our committee looks forward to learning more from the Auditor General for Scotland about the challenges ahead and how the board’s transformation programme aims to achieve this.”

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