NHS Ayrshire and Arran has warned it may be unable to meet Scottish Government demands to balance its books within two years
Speaking to MSPs of the Health and Sports Committee, the health board confirmed it will be unable to repay a £23m brokerage loan from the Scottish Government next year, despite proposed plans to close a cancer treatment centre in Ayr.
The loan was the first issued to the board, after it was unable to balance its budget in the year 2017/2018.
Dr Martin Cheyne, chairman of the NHS board, said: “Clearly, achieving financial balance in a year is going to be very difficult”.
Chief executive John Burns claimed that financial losses were due to a rise in unscheduled care and difficulties in recruitment for key medical posts during 2016 and 2017.
He said: “Those two elements demonstrated pressure in the system and we recognised we needed to do work with our health and social care departments.” The NHS board also used up to 24 locum staff in their neonatal unit at Crosshouse Hospital.
He confirmed the health board will require two years of extra brokerage.
Derek Lindsay, Director of Finance, said the amount of brokerage required for the next two years will be in line with proposed extra government funding.
“At the moment our plan is projecting a potential £20 million required for the next financial year,” he said.
NHS Tayside has already been receiving Government loans of up to £32 million since 2012, and in January this year, NHS Highlands also requested a loan of £14 million.
Earlier, the committee questioned NHS boards from the islands; including NHS Orkney, Shetland, and the Western Isles.
The committee probed the budget expenditure on transport of patients from the island to the mainland, with an estimated £3m spent annually on patient transport from each board.
Chris Anne Campbell, Nursing Director for NHS Western Isles, said: “On paper, purchasing an MRI scanner would save us £250,000 per year on transportation costs to the mainland, but the cost of a scanner, around £1million, plus the staffing and technical expertise of owning a scanner, would mean we saved less.”
Members from all three boards admitted problems arose around transport infrastructure and retaining employment on the islands.
The use of telemedicine was also proposed by all members of the consecutive boards as a mean to cut costs for patient transport, yet difficulties arose due to a lack of strong broadband connections.
Brexit also poses a threat to the island NHS boards, as much of the telemedicine initiatives, such as mPower, are part-funded by the EU.
Neil Galbraith, the chair for NHS Western Isles, said: “Because of the advance of technology we are able to link up to specialists in other areas who can follow quite specifically and give advice. Because of the Brexit transition period, the money will still flow; what happens after that is up to the government to decide.”