A CASH-strapped Scottish health board - forced to borrow £2.5 million from the Scottish Government earlier this year to help balance its books - is now facing a staggering £15.6million overspend.
NHS Highland, after just three months into 2014/15, is facing a target of making cutbacks of over £22million.
Director of finance Nick Kenton will tell the NHS board, which meets next week, that the projected overspend “does give significant cause for concern, particularly compared to previous years”.
He adds: “Significant effort is needed to achieve financial break-even.”
Flagship Raigmore Hospital in Inverness is the biggest overspend, at over £10million.
Mr Kenton puts the overspend down to pressures relating to the increased use of medical locums, waiting list initiatives and reviews of nursing.
NHS Highland sought the Government bailout after failing to make enough savings to break even during the last financial year.
It now means savings of £22.4m will have to be found in 2014-15.
The crisis has worsened due to increases in theatre costs, orthopaedic lists and cancer drugs.
Health board chairman Garry Coutts said: “We have had difficulty getting control over all of our budgets.
“However, If you look at our total budget of £750m, it is a relatively small overspend and I’m confident that we will be able to repay this loan shortly.
“I would much rather ask the government for a loan than even contemplate reducing services for patients.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We expect all health boards to manage their finances within their allocated resources, and they must prioritise in order to provide high quality services for patients.
“However, on some occasions, some boards may require additional resources within that financial year, to deal with specific financial pressures.
“Where this does happen, a clear plan is put in place for health boards to repay the funding over subsequent years to ensure long term financial balance.”
Meanwhile, NHS Highland staff have told a review body there is a perception of a “blame culture” within the organisation.
The review was undertaken by the Area Clinical Forum following the publication of the Francis Report into deaths and incidents of poor care at Mid Staffordshire NHS.
Staff cited communication as a potential source of difficulty, adding: “Some clinicians feel hierarchy is an ongoing impediment to effective communication.”
The financial crisis and review will be discussed at next weeks NHS Highland board meeting.