Patients face delayed operations as £12m deficit emerges at NHS board
A £12 million financial blackhole at a Scottish health board could lead to cutbacks and delays in operations, a patients’ watchdog has warned.
NHS Highland has forecast the massive overspend, which is up £2m on figures published in August.
The financial status is revealed in papers published ahead of a meeting today in Inverness to discuss the widening gap.
Finance director Nick Kenton, the report’s author, highlights a £3.9m overspend at flagship Raigmore Hospital.
The “further deterioration in the Raigmore financial position” is an increase of almost £1m on the situation reported in August.
Mr Kenton said: “The Raigmore situation gives most concern. It is clear that action needs to be taken without delay.”
Scotland Patients Association chairwoman Margaret Watt fears cutbacks to combat the growing overspend would have an adverse effect on patients.
She said: “NHS Highland’s financial situation is very worrying. If they’ve got a deficit, it could be reflected in patient care, such as people having to wait longer for operations.
“We need really good financial people looking after the budget who know how to make savings that don’t impact on the
treatment of patients or on the staff.”
Highlands and Islands MSP Mary Scanlon also expressed concern that financial pressures, particularly on Raigmore, could impact on patient care.
She added: “These figures are very worrying for patients across the Highlands.
“There has to be an open and honest dialogue with patients as to what is affordable, what can be delivered and a commitment that those who need care and treatment will get it.”
The report describes how the £12m overspend was split into £10m for NHS care, including the £3.9m for Raigmore and £2m for adult social care.
Mr Kenton states: “With five months of the [financial] year now passed, it is imperative that improvements in the financial position materialise if NHS Highland is to meet its financial targets.
“It is likely that some [money] will be available during the remainder of the year to offset the [overspend], and a reasonable estimate of this could be as much
as £5m. There needs to be a concerted effort to deliver improvements at an operational level.”
The finance director explains that the Inverness hospital did not carry forward any overspend from 2011-12, adding that Raigmore’s position deteriorated primarily due to a revision of expected savings in schemes that are now unlikely to materialise this financial year.
He added: “Unlike prior years, Raigmore benefited most from the [adjustment] of savings targets, which wrote off £5.7m historical, unachieved savings that would normally have been carried into the current year.
Mr Kenton said the projected £12m overspend was being addressed through “a range of management actions.”
The formation of a special board will oversee Raigmore’s situation.
An NHS Highland spokesman said: “We don’t comment on board papers before the board meeting. However, patients will always be our priority.”
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