NHS’s £5m windfall ‘won’t plug £70m gap’

Tom Waterson says the money will do little to relieve the strain on NHS Lothian. Picture: Gareth Easton
Tom Waterson says the money will do little to relieve the strain on NHS Lothian. Picture: Gareth Easton
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A £5 MILLION windfall to help boost NHS Lothian’s ailing finances has been dismissed as a “drop in the ocean” by frustrated union bosses.

The Scottish Government yesterday announced an additional £4.9m was being allocated to the health board over the next financial year in an bid to address pressures such as the rising cost of new drugs.

But union chiefs said the extra cash would do little to tackle the £70m funding gap facing the health authority.

Tom Waterson, Unison branch secretary, said while the cash pot was welcome it would do little to relieve the financial strain on NHS Lothian.

And he said health bosses needed to “look again” at their spending priorities.

“This [money] is absolutely a drop in the ocean,” he said.

“Any extra funding is welcome, but we currently have a £70m hole in our finances. I suppose every little helps, but it’s going to be extremely difficult to plug that gap.

“NHS Lothian needs to look again at the money it spends on the private sector, and they need to talk to the Scottish Government about the targets that have been set.

The extra cash was announced by the Health Secretary Shona Robison as part of a £65m funding package set aside for health boards across Scotland. It increases NHS Lothian’s budget by more than £37m next year.

Ms Robison insisted the “significant investment” would help alleviate the pressures facing the health service.

She said: “Despite Scotland’s fiscal resource budget being slashed in real terms by ten per cent by Westminster since 2010, we’ve increased the health resource budget by 4.6 per cent in real terms.

“Our NHS services face challenges as a result of the increase in patients, with more complex illnesses, and the rising costs of new drugs.

“This significant investment of £37.7m increases the resources available and will help alleviate these pressures, ensuring our NHS can continue to deliver effective and sustainable care.”

Susan Goldsmith, director of finance at NHS Lothian, said: “Like other health boards, NHS Lothian is facing continued financial pressures in relation to the rising costs of new drugs.

“This funding will help alleviate that pressure and allow us to continue to deliver effective care to patients.”

A rising population and soaring drug prices are among the factors stretching Edinburgh’s health budget to breaking point. Last month, health leaders insisted they were hopeful the current £9.4m overspend could be clawed back – but warned drastic cost-cutting measures may be necessary to ensure patients receive the same level of care in future.

alistair.grant@edinburghnews.com