NHS Borders commits to balancing the books

The board provides window on funding challenges being faced across Scotland

Friday 7th June 2019

Financial pressures at one of Scotland’s NHS boards shed light on the cash squeeze many health bodies across the country are facing.

In a statement following questions in the Scottish Parliament, NHS Borders says it’s aiming to return to a balanced budget ‘as soon as possible’ after it needed a cash bailout from the Scottish Government for the first time in recent years.

Costs at the health board are being driven up a combination of an ageing population with more complex health needs and rising prices for new health technologies and cancer drugs.

More than £12m has to be saved in the year ahead.

These challenges are said to be ‘consistent with the pressure faced by health services across the developed world.’

Ralph Roberts, the chief executive, said: "NHS Borders has had an excellent record of delivering good quality and relatively high performing services, while also balancing the budget. We have acknowledged that in the last 12 months we have faced a number of challenges that required the Board to request additional support to meet our immediate financial targets.

However, the board is fully committed to addressing the financial situation it faces. To do this we are working extremely hard with our staff and as we progress this will also need to involve partners and very importantly local communities."

At yesterday’s First Minister’s Questions, a Conservative MSP claimed the financial situation at NHS Borders, and Borders health and social care partnership, which is funded jointly by the local council and the health board, was “unsustainable”.

In the statement NHS Borders said:

‘The IJB is responsible for planning a number of services across the Borders. These include Primary and Community Health Services, Mental Health & Learning Disability services as well as Adult Social work and Home care services. The IJB has a budget of £186m of which £135m has been provided by health from the total NHS Borders budget of £257m.

‘In 2018/19, as a result of service pressure across these areas, the IJB required additional support from Scottish Borders Council (SBC) of £3.2m for increased social care costs and £6.7m from the NHS as a result of increased health costs.

‘NHS Borders is committed to addressing the financial challenges we are facing which are consistent with the pressure faced by health services across the developed world. This reflects the increasing cost of providing health services as a result of our growing elderly population, who often have more and more complex health issues in old age, as well as increased costs from new health technology and treatments such as cancer drugs and new operations. 

‘To address this, as the NHS has done for the last 70 years, we will need to redesign the way we provide healthcare to meet the changing needs of our community and make sure our services are affordable and sustainable.

‘In 2018/19 NHS Borders received an additional £10.1m from the Scottish Government to address the financial pressures we are facing. This was the first year in the recent past when this was required.

‘NHS Borders have also agreed further support from the Scottish Government over the next few years to give us time to make the changes necessary. We are expecting to receive an additional £9.3m in 2019/20, a proportion of which will be provided to the IJB to support the health services for which they are responsible. NHS Borders is also working on a longer-term plan and wants to return to financial balance as quickly as possible.’

NHS Borders’ baseline budget in 2019/20 is £257m. It says it has delivered savings of £23.5m over the last two financial years, of which £11.7m were permanent rather than one-off.

The plan for the year ahead includes savings of £12.4m.