NHS Borders facing funding shortfall of more than £11m

The Borders General Hospital at Melrose.
The Borders General Hospital at Melrose.

Health chiefs in the Borders expect to need an emergency loan of beween £11m and £13.2m to balance their books this financial year.

That financial deficit was revealed last week in the Scottish Parliament by then health secretary Shona Robison, since replaced by Jeane Freeman.

NHS Borders is one of four health boards nationwide needing Scottish Government brokerage loans to stay afloat.

Although the funding gap identified by the trust is expected to be lower than the £13.2m currently estimated, it is still expected to be in excess of £11m come next spring.

The other trusts seeking financial help are NHS Tayside, NHS Ayrshire and Arran and NHS Highland.

Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk MP John Lamont believes that shortfall, totalling almost £71m between the four boards, highlights a lack of investment by Holyrood.

He said: “The Scottish Government have repeatedly claimed that everything is fine at NHS Borders and they are getting the funding they need.

“These figures confirm the opposite to be true.

“The fact that NHS Borders has had to go to the Scottish Government, cap in hand, to ask for £13m just to run day-to-day services, is a scandal.”

Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire MSP Rachael Hamilton added: “It’s a worrying financial position for NHS Borders to be faced with.

“The Scottish Government should support NHS Borders to put them on a sound financial footing with measures such as proper workforce planning so that they don’t have to rely so much on expensive agency staff costs.

“It’s clear that the Scottish Government have not understood the needs of a rural health board like NHS Borders.”

An NHS Borders spokesperson said: “Until this year, our finances have been managed within budget.

“It has become more challenging over time and more difficult to find sufficient efficiencies or savings to cover the level of inflation and cost pressures that we have to meet.

“Our 2018-19 financial plan now outlines £13.3m of savings to be delivered. However, there is still a substantial gap of £11.5m, and we continue to work hard to reduce this deficit further.”

Ms Freeman, MSP for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley, said: “There is rising demand on our NHS, with increased expectations and an ageing population, so it is crucial we have a transparent and open approach to finances.

“I expect all health boards to continue to develop their plans and work towards delivering a balanced financial position over the course of the remaining financial year while ensuring they provide safe and effective care and deliver best value for money.”