Highlands & Islands

MSPs criticise NHS Highland's handling of its finances

Raigmore Hospital
Image caption Raigmore Hospital continually overspent, said MSPs

"Poor leadership and complacency" led to NHS Highland having to ask for extra funding from the Scottish government, MSPs have said.

NHS Highland required an additional £2.5m to help it break even in 2013-14.

In a new report, the public audit committee has heavily criticised the health board's financial management.

NHS Highland said it had acted to address the concerns, and that it wanted to ensure both its finances and governance met "the highest standards."

The public audit committee gathered evidence from the health board's bosses, who answered MSPs' questions at two public meetings.

In the report, the committee said NHS Highland and its largest hospital - Raigmore in Inverness - continually overspent.

'Culture of complacency'

MSPs questioned how well informed board members were of the financial situation.

Committee convener Paul Martin said: "The fact that, for example, Raigmore Hospital continued to overspend year-on-year, despite £5m extra funding in 2012-13, suggests to us a culture of complacency about budgetary oversight at the hospital and at the NHS Highland board.

"The slow progress in addressing the causes of the overspending at Raigmore was exacerbated by the practice of creating compensatory underspends elsewhere in NHS Highland in order to break even.

"What was clear to the committee was that without brokerage there could have been serious repercussions for patients."

NHS Highland has previously said the deal agreed to secure the additional £2.5m was the first time it had taken such action in 15 years.

It said it could have been forced to cancel operations and cut services if the Scottish government had not given it the funds.

NHS Highland chairman Garry Coutts said: "We welcomed the opportunity to give evidence to the committee and we believe we have fully co-operated.

"We have already acted to address the concerns the committee has raised, both in its latest report and previously, and we are determined to ensure that our financial management and our governance practices are of the highest standards."

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