Cuts fears as health board misses savings target

LOTHIAN health bosses are facing calls to reveal how they are going to save millions of pounds while preserving front-line services, despite falling well short of efficiency 
targets this year.

Although NHS Lothian is on course to balance its budget in the current financial year, its original savings target is expected to be missed by more than £9 million, contributing to a deficit of £12.2m which the health board is expected to face at the start of the 2013-14 financial year in April.

NHS Lothian insisted it had “no problems” with its budget, but Labour MSP and shadow health secretary Jackie Baillie raised doubts over the health board’s ability to hit increasingly challenging savings targets and said it was “highly likely” that vital services would come under threat.

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She said: “If there is a growing deficit, then there are only two ways to address it – cut services, or make even more savings next year. People in the Lothians will rightly be concerned about the impact.”

NHS Lothian targeted £37.5m of savings for the current year, and although the figure was later reduced to £32.3m, it is believed just £28.4m of savings will be achieved.

As a result, one-off savings had to be made in other areas to balance the books – meaning even more challenging efficiency savings targets in 2013-14 will be imposed.

Although NHS Lothian’s budget is increasing by around 4.4 per cent in 2013-14, savings are necessary due to the soaring costs of delivering its services and increases to patient numbers.

The health board is hoping to save money in procurement, increasing staff productivity and tackling waste in prescribing.

Susan Goldsmith, NHS Lothian’s finance director, said: “The £12.2m relates to unachieved efficiency savings for this financial year which will be carried forward into next year.

“Concrete plans are already in place so that the full savings will be achieved. These savings are about being smarter with our money and services. They are achieved through innovative thinking and being more efficient in the way in which we operate. They will not have an impact on services or require cuts to be made in any area.”