The cabinet secretary will be aware of the recent Audit Scotland report “NHS in Scotland 2016” and Audit Scotland’s worrying conclusion that NHS Borders is the board that is least likely to balance its books this year, with 55 per cent of planned savings being classified as “high risk”. She will also be aware that Audit Scotland noted in the same report that NHS Borders has had the largest increase in spend on internal bank nurses and midwives and is spending twice as much on external agency staff as it spent in the previous year.
What is the Scottish Government doing specifically to support NHS Borders and its staff through those challenges?
In 2016-17, the NHS Borders resource budget has increased by 5.3 per cent to £193.9 million. The NHS Borders uplift includes £5.3 million for investment in social care, as part of the integration of health and social care.
I point out that NHS Borders funding for 2016-17 is more than £4 million above its NHS Scotland resource allocation committee target share. However, we understand the pressures that the growing demand for services brings.
The agency staff issue that John Lamont has raised is a key element of the national programme of work that is under way to reduce agency spend. Part of that is about helping boards to recruit to substantive posts where that makes sense, and to look at other options for reducing spend. I will be happy to write to the member with more details of what NHS Borders is doing to reduce agency spend, as part of that programme.