Tayside and Central Scotland

NHS Tayside patients 'may face longer waits'

Paul Gray Image copyright Scottish Parliament
Image caption Paul Gray said reducing treatment rates was one of the "contingencies" the health board had raised with him

Patients may have to wait longer for NHS Tayside treatment to improve its financial position, NHS Scotland's chief executive has told a committee.

Paul Gray said reducing treatment rates was one of the "contingencies" the health board had raised with him.

NHS Tayside has a gap of just over £58m between expenditure and income this financial year, MSPs were told.

Mr Gray told a Holyrood committee the chair and chief executive of NHS Tayside have raised various options.

Audit Scotland warned last year that there was a risk NHS Tayside would need a Scottish government bailout, known as brokerage, despite receiving more than £24.3m from ministers since 2012.

Waiting lists

Mr Gray told the Public Audit and Post Legislative Scrutiny Committee: "One of the contingencies a board can deploy would be to slow down the rate of treating people in some areas.

"That's what I want to discuss with them, whether and how they will deploy some of these contingencies.

"There may be some that are appropriate and some are not, I just want to be sure about that."

Committee convener Jenny Marra asked: "Does that mean longer waiting lists?"

Mr Gray replied: "Yes, let's not beat about the bush, of course it would.

"It would mean that somebody who might have been treated at the end of March might not be treated until April."

'Alarm bells'

NHS Tayside management have been set the target of making savings of £46.75m in 2016-17 and £45.8m in 2017-18.

Christine McLaughlin, director of health finance at the Scottish government, said after the "board is back in financial balance" it will then look to "put in place a repayment profile for the brokerage they have incurred".

Some health boards have previously not been required to repay brokerage funding, but Mr Gray said the Government had already made a concession to NHS Tayside by allowing it to keep money it raises from the sale of any assets rather than returning this to central funds.

MSPs pressed Mr Gray when the financial problems had become apparent, with the SNP's Gail Ross asking: "Surely the alarm bells start ringing when you need to get bailed out by the Scottish government in consecutive years, time after time?"

Conservative MSP Ross Thomson said a specialist taskforce had been sent in to help 15 years ago in a bid to avoid the "very financial situation NHS Tayside has found itself in".

Mr Gray said: "I will reflect on that but it is difficult to hold to account people who are not there, and also to look back at decisions which were taken, for example about assets, in the light of today's economic circumstances which now turn out to be wrong.

"We would have to reflect whether they were wrong at the time they were taken."

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