NHS Highland gets £2.5m Government ‘bailout’

A CASH-strapped Scottish health board has been forced to borrow £2.5 million from the Scottish Government to help balance its books.

Raigmore Hospital. Picture: Dave Conner [CC] (http://bit.ly/1jOM3NG)

NHS Highland sought the bailout after failing to make enough savings to break even during the current financial year.

This means savings of £21.9m will have to be found in 2014-15.

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The biggest factor in the deficit is a £9.5m overspend at Raigmore Hospital. The crisis has worsened due to increases in theatre costs, orthopaedic lists and cancer drugs.

Health board chairman Garry Coutts said: “It has been a difficult year for us for a variety of reasons and 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.”

In a report to next month’s board meeting, director of finance Nick Kenton describes the move as “clearly disappointing”, adding that the news “emphasises the need for robust savings plans and controls”.

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.”