NHS Lothian’s funding ‘significantly out of line’

Wednesday April 3rd 2019


Written by Local Democracy Reporter, David Bol

The financial chief of NHS Lothian has warned the funding it receives from Holyrood is “significantly out of line” with the rest of Scotland – as an extra £2.5m will be made available to help balance the books of health services in the Capital.

Fears have been raised that “patients will suffer” if Edinburgh and the Lothians don’t receive more funding from the Scottish Government as the Capital grapples with a funding crisis.

NHS Lothian is expected to balance its budget for the 2018/19 financial year – but there is currently a projected £14.3m overspend for acute services and an overall operational deficit of £13.2m. Around £10m from NHS Lothian’s reserves could be used to help balance the books.

Susan Goldsmith, NHS Lothian’s director of finance, told the board that the organisation is set to break even in the 2018/19 financial year but warned that “we rely heavily on non-recurring resources”.

She added: “As a board, our funding per head is now significantly out of line. Our ability to step up our infrastructure is compromised by that funding per head of population.

“We are now significantly out of balance on our acute systems both on scheduled and non-scheduled elements. That’s becoming an issue for IJBs and their ability to plan for unscheduled care. Our funding levels are significantly out of line with other health boards.”

During the last 10 years, NHS Lothian has received £365m less than the Scottish Government’s target funding allocation, including a £11.6m gap for 19/20 – the largest deficit in Scotland.

NHS Lothian’s chief executive, Tim Davison said the organisation also has an “in-demand deficit”, due in part to a growing and ageing population and added that the funding target was not enough.

Last week, the Edinburgh Integration Joint Board (IJB), which delivers health and social care services in the Capital, failed to agree a budget for 19/20 after being faced with a £12.6m deficit. Discussions are set to continue with the city council and NHS Lothian in order to bridge the gap. On Tuesday, health secretary Jeane Freeman said budgets for IJBs increased by 29 per cent over the last year and denied that there was a funding crisis in Edinburgh.

NHS Lothian’s board has agreed to hand over £2.5m of additional funding to Edinburgh IJB. But the funding is to help ensure health components of the 18/19 budget are balanced, and no commitment has yet been made to the 19/20 financial situation – despite a £12.6m gap and no budget being set.

Miles Briggs, Conservative Lothian MSP and shadow cabinet secretary for health, said: “It is not realistic or fair to ask NHS Lothian to deliver the same services as the rest of Scotland, but with less money, which has led to waiting times in NHS Lothian being amongst the longest in Scotland for many treatments.

“NHS Lothian is already the most expensive part of Scotland to deliver services and recruit and retain NHS staff, and the underfunding of the health board over the last decade is taking its toll.

“It is patients across Lothian who will suffer due to underfunding from SNP Ministers, with longer waiting times and less funding available for social care.”

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