Public Health

25.10.18

Scottish NHS found to be ‘not financially sustainable’ in damning audit report

Scotland’s NHS’s performance is “in decline” and needs to urgently move away from “short-term fire-fighting” in the battle against unsustainable funding, an official audit report has warned.

Audit Scotland said the Scottish NHS is “not financially unsustainable” with boards facing a funding black hole of more than £130m this year as they become increasingly dependent on Scottish Government loans.

The auditor’s annual assessment of the health services found declining performances of the Scottish NHS as it struggled to retain staff and was burdened by a big maintenance backlog, with not a single board meeting any of the key national targets.

It said that all of the health boards were “struggling to break even,” which follows rising demand, mounting pressure over staffing levels, and a 19% rise in the cost of drugs over the last five years.

The “declining performance against national standards indicates the stress NHS boards are under,” the report said.

“The scale of the challenges means decisive action is required, with an urgent focus on the elements critical to ensuring the NHS is fit to meet people’s needs in the future.”

Caroline Gardner, the auditor general for Scotland, said: “The performance of the NHS continues to decline, while demands on the service from Scotland's ageing population are growing.

“The solutions lie in changing how healthcare is accessed and delivered, but progress is too slow.”

Health secretary Jeane Freeman welcomed the recommendations and said the Scottish Government was “already taking these forward.”

She said: “While our NHS faces challenges, common with health systems across the world, we are implementing a new waiting times improvement plan to direct £850m of investment over the next three years, to deliver substantial and sustainable improvements to performance, and significantly improve the experience of patients waiting to be seen or treated.”

The Scottish Government spent £13bn on the NHS in 2017-18, 42% of the total Scottish budget, and its NHS relied on £50.7m in brokerage provided by the Scottish Government.

Audit Scotland said that the Scottish NHS also suffered increased sickness absence and staff turnover, and warned that Brexit will pose “additional challenges” for the NHS.

BMA Scotland, the doctor’s trade union, said the report was a “stark warning” of the damage of insufficient funding for the NHS.

The BMA Scotland chair, Lewis Morrison, said: “This latest report from Audit Scotland must be the wake-up call that finally prompts the Scottish Government into credible action.”

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 Image credit - LPETTET

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