NHS Borders one stage away from ‘ministerial intervention’ after failing to balance books

John Lamont MP
John Lamont MP

Cash-strapped NHS Borders claimed this week that its figures on waiting times and treatment targets were “good”, despite a local politician saying it must not be allowed to “sleep walk into a full-blown crisis”.

This came following the news that the health board had been escalated to stage four on the Scottish Government’s NHS board performance escalation framework – the worst category being stage five, which involves ministerial intervention.

According to the government’s framework, a health board is escalated to stage four when there are “significant risks to delivery, quality, financial performance or safety”.

Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk MP, John Lamont said: “NHS Borders must not be allowed to sleep walk into a full-blown crisis and this news must act as a wake-up call to the Scottish Government.

“For several years, I have been urging the SNP Government to take action to address issues that NHS Borders have been having with staff recruitment, the cancellations of operations and meeting key targets. These warning signs cannot continue to be ignored.

“There is only so much doctors and nurses at NHS Borders can do.”

However, a spokesperson for NHS Borders said: “Our doctors, nurses, other professionals and all of the staff who make our organisation work are committed, hard working and go above and beyond to deliver person centred and compassionate care for people in the Borders.”

The spokesperson went on to say that recent figures showing cancer treatment times, emergency department waiting times and vacancy rates were “good”, compared with the Scottish average.

But the spokesperson went on to add that hospital bed numbers in the Borders have remained “almost unchanged” since 2012.

The health board’s financial position was also called into question.

The NHS Borders spokesperson added: “For the first time this year we have been unable to make enough savings to balance the books, and while we continue to focus relentlessly on cost effectiveness – the people of the Borders would expect no less – this is absolutely not at the expense of patient safety, which is our number one priority.

“Despite a £3million improvement in our financial position this year, Scottish Government has advised ‘that the changes in leadership which are planned, the scale of the remaining financial challenges facing the board, and the need for pace in delivering of longer term sustainability present key risks.’

“This has led the director general to move us to stage four. Any resource offered from Scottish Government to help us drive forward our recovery plan is welcomed as we continue to work to address the challenges we face with a continuing focus on safe, high-quality patient care.

“We are now looking to winter and preparing to deliver our service for the population of the Borders during what is usually a challenging season.”

For the winter, NHS Borders is asking people to play their own part in making the system run smoothly – “ensuring you have a well stocked medicine cabinet, using the experts in the community such as pharmacists and dentists, look out for your neighbours, and cancel your appointments if you are no longer able to attend them.”