Grampian's 2004-05 unified budget has increased by £30.9 million over the comparable 2003-04 budget. The Executive currently has no plans fundamentally to change the funding formula for the health service, which is based on national health service boards' population share, the age and sex mix, the level of deprivation and the proportion of the population living in remote and rural areas. A short-life resource allocation committee is being set up and part of its remit is to improve and refine the Arbuthnott formula.
The minister will know from a recent parliamentary answer that he gave me that two years ago Grampian received the third-worst funding settlement in Scotland per capita for health services, last year it received the second-worst funding settlement in Scotland and this year it received the worst funding settlement in Scotland. That is despite the fact that, although Grampian has perhaps the most efficient health board in the whole of Scotland, it has some of the longest waiting times in Scotland.
NHS Grampian could be about to run up a deficit of around £13 million. Does the minister accept that the current formula does not reflect need for patients in Grampian? Will he initiate a review to ensure that the formula used reflects need and takes into account the pressures that are experienced by medical staff and patients in Grampian?
I tried to indicate that to the member in my initial answer. If he does not believe it from me, he should perhaps correspond with his party leader, who said:
"The Scottish Executive is considering diverting cash from some of the more affluent parts of Scotland to help Glasgow back to health ... I am 100% behind that. It'll cause uproar in some other Scots towns and cities, for sure, but that's tough".
The Executive does not take that view. We have carried out a review of how we fund our health service—the first such review in 20 years. Funding is based on share of population, age structure, the level of deprivation, remote and rural issues, mortality rates among people under 65, the unemployment rate, the percentage of elderly people on income support and the number of multiply deprived households. It is not just based on per capita figures, as some members would wish. I should mention that, on a per capita basis, Mr Lochhead's proposal would be disappointing news in the Western Isles, Shetland, Orkney, Glasgow, Highland and Dumfries and Galloway, all of which benefit from a rational disbursement of resources that is based on need.
Is the minister aware that, as a result of financial constraints, NHS Grampian has had to postpone its appointment of infection control nurses until April next year? Does he agree that those nurses have a vital role to play in education about, and control of, MRSA and other hospital-acquired infections? For the future, will he seek to restore NHS Grampian's fair share of resources, which were directed away from the north-east under the Arbuthnott formula?
Let us get this in context, colleagues. The current budget is £8.1 billion, rising to £10.3 billion in 2007-08. On the point about Grampian, I point out that the Executive has levelled up resources; we have not taken money away from any health board. With the progress that we are making and the additional resources that we are putting in, we have been levelling up. No one is losing in hard-cash terms. The new money that has gone to Grampian is in line with the average increase throughout Scotland. There is no reduction in funding. Of course all our health boards are under pressure with regard to resources. We all know that they could do more with more money. However, it is for them to decide