NHS Highland must focus on making significant and long-term changes in order to deal with its complex and ongoing problems.
In a report to the Scottish Parliament, Auditor General for Scotland Caroline Gardner said she had concerns about the NHS board’s capacity to make the urgent and major changes required, given its significant and long-standing problems and track record in addressing these issues.
In 2018/19, NHS Highland had identified savings of £50.5 million. The board only realised planned savings of £26.6 million and a further £5.9 million from other savings and benefits. The board required Scottish Government loans of £18 m to meet its financial targets.
The board faces a range of other long-standing issues, including: considerable overspends on drugs and adult social care; a rising locum staffing bill; significant organisational and leadership changes, continuing difficulties recruiting staff and incidents of bullying.
Caroline Gardner said:
“NHS Highland urgently needs a clear and achievable plan to redesign services. This must go beyond the series of short-term fixes we have seen in the past. Longer-term planning is critical in ensuring it can continue to deliver the services needed by people living across the NHS Highland area. The scale of changes needed are such that the board is unlikely to become financially stable in the next two years.
“Given the board's past record in addressing problems, and the current leadership and organisational difficulties it faces, I am concerned about its capacity to bring about the necessary changes.”