Admin costs soar by £20m in two years

HEALTH chiefs have spent £20 million more on admin in the last two years, despite needing to make huge savings.

Figures have shown 98m - a tenth of NHS Lothian's total annual budget - was set aside for the red tape spend in 2009-10, around 20 per cent up from two years ago. NHS Lothian has to shave 70m off outgoings by 2012.

The health board said the increase may be down to changes in how administrative costs are calculated and that, proportionately, it was a lower spend than any other health board.

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Lothians Conservative MSP Gavin Brown said: "NHS Lothian should be looking to save costs in this field as it is important that we continue to find efficiencies and divert funds to front-line services."

Margaret Watt, the chairwoman of the Scotland Patients Association, added: "It's quite an obscene figure."

Senior health board sources say that cutting the armies of office workers would be too "simplistic".

It was announced in April that NHS Lothian would have to save 30m this year and next. The Scottish Government and local health bosses said there would be no compulsory redundancies, and that front-line services would be "protected".

A freeze on hiring admin staff was introduced, but the numbers going out through "natural waste" have not been as high as expected.

Susan Goldsmith, director of finance for NHS Lothian, said: "NHS Lothian has the lowest spend per head of population in the country. We have the lowest ratio of administration and management staff to clinical staff amongst the five largest boards in Scotland."