Audit Scotland and its Auditor General have released their annual report on the finances of the NHS in Scotland. The publication highlights the need for change to meet current challenges, as a result of changing pressures on services and demographic change.
The report also states that “The NHS in Scotland is not in a financially sustainable position”, citing that health boards are barely breaking even, and are depending on brokerage (essentially government loans). They also note that a lot of savings required to achieve current performance are as a result of one-off events (e.g. through sale of sites) and are not a sustainable source of future funds. Also highlighted is the increasing pressures on services, and that a large number of targets are being missed.
It is worth noting that with annual spending on the NHS in Scotland at £13.1bn, the Scottish Government has provided £50m in loans to struggling boards this year, representing an effective overspend of only 0.4%. More concerning however are the long term trends identified in the report, such as a scale of non-recurring savings (see graphic on p13), and a significant rise in the proportion of expected savings for which boards have no strategy to deliver (up to 28% from 17% the previous year). It is in this context that the report affirms that “immediate action is needed”.