Page last updated at 09:33 GMT, Thursday, 4 December 2008

NHS finances facing 'challenges'

Pill bottles
Health boards face rising costs

The financial position in the NHS in Scotland has continued to improve, according to an official report.

However, Audit Scotland said that the health service faced "challenging times" in the near future.

It found an overall underspend of 26m over the financial year to March 2008. The total budget was 10.1bn.

Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said the report showed health boards were operating within budgets and "giving the public excellent value for money".

The audit went on to say that NHS bodies faced smaller funding increases over the next three years while being expected to increase efficiency savings.

The body added that boards would also have to find cash for other issues, such as staff pay deals, rising drug and fuel costs and cutting waiting times.

It also said they would face new challenges such as the full implementation of the European Working Time Directive (EWTD), which sets limits on doctors' hours.


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Auditor general for Scotland Robert Black said: "The financial performance of the NHS was good during 2007/08.

"The service continues its steady improvement in this area over the past few years.

"This is the third year in a row that the NHS has ended the year with a small underspend."

He said NHS bodies should now prepare for "some considerable challenges ahead".

New money

The report said during 2007/08, NHS bodies underspent by 24m on their revenue budgets - the money used for the day-to-day running of the health service - and 2m on their capital budgets - the money used for projects such as new buildings and equipment.

NHS Western Isles was the only board to fail to meet one of its financial targets.

It also said that while most NHS bodies also had sound governance arrangements in place the auditors of NHS Orkney and NHS Western Isles had raised governance issues that those boards needed to address.

Ms Sturgeon said the Scottish Government was investing more than ever in the NHS, including 1.5bn of new money over the next three years.

Nicola Sturgeon
Nicola Sturgeon said the NHS was "rising to the challenge"
She added: "These latest figures from Audit Scotland show that NHS Scotland is rising to the challenge of ensuring it operates within its budget so that the public gets the best possible value for money.

"It's extremely encouraging that NHS Scotland has achieved its financial targets."

Commenting on the report, Dr Peter Terry, chairman of the BMA in Scotland, said he was "pleased that boards have managed to achieve their financial targets".

He added: "Amid future increasing financial pressures, it is essential that care is not compromised as boards struggle to meet increasingly demanding targets, potentially with lethal consequences.

"Just last week, the BMA warned that NHS boards were unprepared for the implementation of the EWTD. The 48-hour working limit is going to have a massive impact on training and service delivery.

"If the standard of training is not maintained it will be to the detriment of patient care, and this is not acceptable."

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