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NHS is managing its finances well in Scotland

But Audit Scotland report warns that focus has been on short-term rather than long-term efficiency measures

Ingrid Torjesen

Thursday, 10 October 2013

The NHS in Scotland managed its finances well in 2012/13 but needs to focus more on long-term financial planning and sustainability to make the changes needed to meet increasing demands, according to a report from Audit Scotland published today.

The report NHS financial performance 2012/13’ says the NHS in Scotland spent £10.9 billion in 2012/13, all NHS boards met their annual financial targets for the fifth consecutive year, and the service had a small overall surplus of £16.9 million.

However, the report adds that demands on healthcare are rising and signs of pressure on the NHS were apparent. Some boards missed waiting times targets; vacancies for hospital doctors, nurses and midwives increased; and spending on bank and agency staff and private health care rose. Boards focus on breaking even every year because they have to meet annual financial targets, but what they need to do is focus more on long-term financial planning to change the way they deliver services to meet the challenges of population changes, technology advances and decreasing budgets, the report warns.

Auditor General for Scotland, Caroline Gardner, said: "The NHS in Scotland's financial performance was good in 2012/13, with all boards meeting their targets to break even and the service finishing the year with a small surplus. However, the health service needs to increase its focus on longer-term financial planning so that it is prepared for the challenges it faces.

"The health service will need to change how it delivers services if it is to meet the substantial and growing demands it faces, particularly from the ageing population. The move to integrated health and social care services from 2015 will also be a significant change for the NHS and its partners. Strong longer-term financial planning and analysis are central to meeting these challenges."

Theresa Fyffe, director of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Scotland, said: “Today’s report paints a picture of an NHS that is doing its best whilst creaking at the seams. Health boards are scrabbling around trying to find new ways to make savings while trying to keep up with demand for health services and meet a myriad of different Government targets.

“It is not sustainable to manage the health service in this way, as shown all too clearly by missed waiting times targets, growing vacancy rates for nurses and other healthcare staff and an increasing reliance on bank and agency staff as well as private healthcare.

She added “This current shortage of nurses is only going to get worse, and coupled with the major reforms to health and social care that are currently underway in Scotland, we need decision makers to be more radical and set out clear priorities for future investment so we can have sustainable services that meet the needs of patients.”

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