Audit Scotland warns of severe problems faced by three health boards

Audit_ScotlandThe Auditor General for Scotland, Caroline Gardner, has reported that a new IT system at NHS24 has cost 50 per cent more and taken two years longer to install than originally intended.

Audit Scotland also warned that NHS Tayside failed to break even for the third year in a row, relying on a £14m loan from the Scottish government.

An report from the watchdog also raised concerns over finances at NHS Highland, which auditors said needs to rely less on one-off savings.

The report to MSPs said delays in implementing the new computer systems at NHS24 had brought “substantial additional costs and risks”, with the timetable for completion slipping from June 2013 to October 2015.

Caroline Gardiner
Caroline Gardiner

The estimated cost of the system is now £117.4m, 55 per cent higher than the original estimate of £75.8m.

Auditors found overspends on staffing, holiday pay and primary care prescribing left NHS Tayside relying on loans for the third year in a row.

The health board needed £14.2m from the Scottish government just to break even in 2014/15.

As well as repaying the loan, auditors warned the board would need to make savings of £27m in 2015/16.

NHS Highland was given a critical report on its 2013/14 accounts, and auditors said improvements had been made.

However, they said more needed to be done to develop longer-term financial planning and reduce reliance on one-off savings.

Responding to the report, NHS24 chief executive Ian Crichton said the report “outlines a series of weaknesses dating back to 2011”.

He said: “Delays in this major IT programme have led to a significant increase in costs. During the last 16 months an expert team has been working hard to bring the project back on track.

“The new system will be in place by the end of October.”

NHS Tayside chief executive Lesley McLay said the board was “facing challenges due to increasing demands on services”.

She said: “NHS Tayside’s board has been building a programme of improvement and transformation since the beginning of this financial year.

“This medium-term programme, led by clinical staff who are partnered with managers, prioritises the delivery of service improvement and benefits for patients and also supports the delivery of sustainable financial balance for NHS Tayside.”

NHS Highland chairman Garry Coutts welcomed the report, saying it reflected the “robust measures” taken to improve following the 2013/14 audit.

He said: “It is heartening to read in this latest report that the auditor has concluded that we have strengthened our financial management arrangements, transparency and scrutiny of our financial performance.

“This latest report makes the point that it is important for the board to build on these improvements given the challenges ahead. That is something we are determined to do.”

The reports can be viewed here.

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