Auditor General signposts major challenges at two health boards

06 October 2016 Share this LinkedIn

The Auditor General for Scotland, Caroline Gardner, has reported to the Scottish Parliament on significant issues arising from the annual audits of NHS Tayside and NHS 24.

The Auditor General has highlighted:

  • The scale of the challenge NHS Tayside faces to meet financial targets, and a significant risk that it will not achieve its financial plan for 2016/17 and future years;
  • Action taken by NHS 24 to address delays to the implementation of a new IT system, and the subsequent financial impact on the board.

NHS Tayside has received £24.3 million in financial support from the Scottish Government over the last four years in order to break even. In 2015/16, the health board received £5 million to cover pressures including staffing and prescribing costs, and reaching national performance targets.

As well as the need to repay this support, the board has set an unprecedented savings target of £58.4 million for 2016/17. At the same time it is forecasting a potential deficit of £11.6 million and does not currently have plans in place that fully address this gap. Based on its financial performance to date, there is a significant risk it will require financial aid again in order to break even.

NHS 24 has invested significantly in implementing a new IT system over the past six years. Failure to launch the system successfully and additional double running costs have meant the total projected cost of the programme will be £131.2 million - 73 per cent higher than the original business case. The delays have also created risks to the board's ability to meet future financial targets.

Whilst significant challenges remain NHS 24 is now taking reasonable steps to mitigate the risk of further delay. It maintained the existing IT system, minimising the impact on services for patients and met 14 of its 15 key performance indicators. While work continues towards successful completion, delivering financial targets will be very difficult and largely depend on achieving efficiency savings.

Caroline Gardner said:

"Each of these health boards is experiencing prolonged and considerable challenges which continue to have an impact on the way they operate and deliver services.

"While action is under way to try and address these issues, there's no quick fix available and recovery will take time. It's important that the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Government closely monitor progress, to ensure circumstances do not worsen, to the detriment of staff and service users."

The Auditor General reports on the overall financial health and performance of the NHS in Scotland later this month.