South Scotland MSP has welcomed the writing off of NHS Ayrhsire and Arran’s “debt” by the Scottish Government but has warned that the short term fix won’t tackle the chronic underfunding of the NHS.
Last week it was announced in the Scottish Parliament that the debts incurred by health boards in Scotland would be written off as boards move to a new Financial Framework. The new Financial Framework will mean that health boards will be required to reach a break even financial position over a three-year budget process. The decision came after Audit Scotland had raised concerns about the financial health of some boards including NHS Ayrshire and Arran, which have taken millions of pounds of loans from the government to break even. NHS Ayrshire and Arran have racked up debts close to £22m and the announcement last week will mean that the loans previously made to the health board will not be recovered.
Colin Smyth MSP said, “While new money into our NHS is always welcome it can not be forgotten that under this SNP Government debt at NHS Ayrshire and Arran has built up. The cuts to services that would have been required to meet the brokerage loan repayments would have pushed the health board further into crisis. However, that crisis has only been delayed. While past debts have been written off, Ayrshire and Arran NHS will still need to find millions of pounds worth of savings to break even this year. It still isn’t clear to me how those savings will be found and the health board themselves don’t yet have a plan to break even. However, what is inevitable is the fact that there is simply no way the level of cuts needed cannot be achieved without impacting on services. Whilst NHS Ayrshire and Arran have serious questioned to answer over the debts they have raked up, the SNP Government need to understand that our NHS is chronically underfunded. More investment is needed on an ongoing basis, not just when debts reach an unmanageable level.”