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Another Audit Scotland report into NHS Highland finance problems expected

By Ian Duncan

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Raigmore Hospital.
Raigmore Hospital.

NHS Highland is likely to be audited for the third time in three consecutive years by Audit Scotland due to continued financial challenges.

The admission was made by the Auditor General during an evidence session to the Scottish Parliament’s Public Audit and Post-Legislative Scrutiny Committee.

During the session on Audit Scotland’s latest report into NHS Highland which was published last week, Highlands and Islands MSP, Edward Mountain asked: “Are we going to get a third section 22 report?"

The Auditor General replied: “I would be surprised if you didn’t.”

In Audit Scotland’s most recent report on NHS Highland, the Auditor General concluded that the health board’s savings forecasts were "unrealistic".

This comes despite NHS Highland employing external consultancy PricewaterhouseCooper (Pwc) at a cost of £989,000 plus VAT to identify savings.

Edward Mountain questioned whether Pwc were providing value for money and commented how staff he had spoken to “were less than enthusiastic”.

He then asked the Auditor General: “Are you enthusiastic about what has been achieved by Pwc in their project management office set up. Is it worth £1 million-plus pounds?”

The Auditor General replied: “It’s clearly a lot of money and I can absolutely understand the concern in Highland about the amount being spent on the project management office and management of the changes rather than on health care services. I say in the report that it’s too early to comment on whether it's value for money.”

Following the evidence session, Mr Mountain said: “A significant sum is being spent by NHS Highland on external consultants to find more savings. This comes at a time when the health board’s savings forecasts have already been described by the Auditor General as ‘unrealistic’.

"The financial problems are not going away and it’s almost inevitable that the Auditor General will investigate NHS Highland this time next year.”

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