NHS Lothian underfunded by £13 million says auditor

The NHS is suffering a �13m underfunding. Picture: Tony Marsh
The NHS is suffering a �13m underfunding. Picture: Tony Marsh
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HEALTH services in the Lothians are underfunded by almost £13 million as the NHS struggles to cope with increasing costs, staff shortages and “unprecedented” savings targets, a new report by Audit Scotland said today.

Scottish Labour health spokesman Anas Sarwar said: “Lothian is not getting a fair deal from the NHS, the Health Secretary or the Scottish Government. That is not fair for patients or staff and it needs to be fixed.”

The NHS recognises Lothian has been underfunded since 2009 when a new formula was introduced to allocate health spending across Scotland.

“It has gradually been reducing the gap between actual funding and the amount Lothian should get. It was meant to have been narrowed to less than one per cent by this year. But Lothian’s funding was still 1.5 per cent – or £18.8m – short, so the board had to get a further £6m to help out.

But the audit report said at July 31, NHS Lothian had overspent against its revenue budget by £7.1m, mainly driven by over-spending on pay and prescribing.

Earlier this month, the Evening News revealed NHS Lothian had been forced to make a U-turn on its decision to stop sending people to private hospitals for treatment after rocketing demand left more than 14,000 patients languishing on waiting lists.

And earlier this year, a survey found more than two-thirds of NHS Lothian workers felt unable to do their jobs properly due to lack of staff.

Lothian MSP and Tory public health spokesman Miles Briggs said the audit report showed how great the financial pressures faced by NHS Lothian were.

“How can a health board address a staffing crisis when it has not got the money to do it? At the end of the day it is the patients who suffer.

“I’m increasingly worried about the effect that is having on how we reform the health service, for example the integration of health and social care. I fear the good work that should be happening there is not taking place because there are so many pressures.”

NHS Lothian finance 
director Susan Goldsmith said: “We have never hidden the fact we face financial challenges, but we are still confidently forecasting a break-even position for 2016/17.”