Public spending watchdog highlights NHS Grampian’s failure to achieve six out of eight performance targets

Health Secretary Shona Robison
Health Secretary Shona Robison

NHS staff working in the North-east missed six of eight key targets last year – and greater challenges lie ahead due to budget squeezes.

An Audit Scotland report shows NHS Grampian missed targets in 2016/17 for child mental health treatment, outpatient appointments and cancer referrals; but hit targets for drug and alcohol treatment, and A&E treatment.

The report shows the board must make £27.7 million savings in the current financial year, plus £25.3m in 2018/19 and £22.2m in 2019/20.

Aberdeen South MP Ross Thomson said the Scottish Government needs to give the board more money.

“The board has traditionally been under-funded and, while the Conservative UK Government has increased spending in health and education, the funding that has gone to Holyrood has not gone to the NHS as much as it should,” he said.

British Medical Association Scotland chairman Dr Peter Bennie said: “This latest report makes clear that it is getting harder and harder for the NHS in Scotland to cope with continued austerity.

“Demands on the NHS are increasing rapidly every year and sufficient resources are simply not being made available to meet the needs of patients.

“Substantive action on the increasing gap between resources and demand is needed if Scotland’s NHS is to be able to cope with the challenges it faces.”

Scottish Health Secretary Shona Robison said: “We are committed to ensuring patient experience is at the forefront of our NHS, which is why I announced £50m to improve waiting times earlier this year.”

As part of its budget-setting process for 2018/19, NHS Grampian is due to come up with a list of actions aimed at balancing the books.

An NHS Grampian spokeswoman said: “These actions will be considered and approved by the board following confirmation of the draft Scottish Government budget in December. The board achieved its three financial targets in 2017/18.”

In response to missing six of the eight key targets, the spokeswoman added: “The board monitors performance at each meeting and remains committed to providing access to high quality and timely care, within available resources.”

The Audit Scotland report praised Aberdeen City Health and Social Care Partnership (ACHSCP) for helping to reduce bed blocking at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary by 22% over the last 12 months.

The report said: “This was achieved through initiatives such as ensuring social work staff are part of hospital discharge processes and the use of intermediate care beds, which allow patients and their families more time to consider care options.”

A separate report, set to be presented to Aberdeen City Council’s integration joint board at a meeting on Tuesday, said the ACHSCP had an overspend of £1.2m as of the first six months of the 2016/17 tax year and its overspend is forecast to reach £2.8m by the end of the tax year.

In the report ACHSCP’s chief financial officer Alex Stephen said: “A review has been undertaken of the spend and commitments against the Integration and Change Fund budget and the forecast has been adjusted accordingly.

“It is currently anticipated that the £2.8m can be accommodated from within this budget for 2017/18.”