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EDWARD MOUNTAIN: Honesty needed by NHS Highland and Scottish Government over future of health service

By Ed Mountain

Holyrood Notebook by Edward Mountain

Edward Mountain says cut will be needed to balance the books at NHS Highland. Picture: James Mackenzie
Edward Mountain says cut will be needed to balance the books at NHS Highland. Picture: James Mackenzie

According to NHS Highland’s latest figures, the total year-to-date overspend is reported to be £25.519 million, with the overspend at the end of the 2023/2024 financial year forecasted to increase to £55.774 million.

Where is NHS Highland going to get the money from to cover these costs?

Borrowing (brokerage) to cover the loss from the Scottish Government will compound the annual costs and make deeper cuts necessary.

So, it’s inevitable and undeniable that this overspend will require cuts. The questions are not only when and where but how deep these cuts will need be. Today or tomorrow?

What we also know is that these cuts will impact multiple areas of care provided by NHS Highland. I fear that the easiest target will be elective and semi-elective surgery.

We have already seen that some patients requiring orthopaedic surgery are having to wait years. This Scottish Government argues that the new National Treatment Centre will solve orthopaedic waits. The bad news is it won’t, as many patients are not well enough to use it and therefore required to have surgery in Raigmore.

What we need is honesty. Honesty from the Scottish Government on what we can expect from our health service and honesty from the board of NHS Highland on what they can deliver. It is clear that neither has laid this out.

What we also need is to make savings and the best way to do that is not by cutting services but making delivery of those services more cost effective.

The first step in doing this is to build a new and upgraded hospital. If we want to do things better, we need to invest in our facilities and not make piecemeal cuts to our front-line services.

  • Edward Mountain is a Conservative MSP for the Highlands and Islands.

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