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Audit Scotland calls on NHS Highland to urgently address leadership and organisational problems

By Gregor White

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Audit Scotland has called into question NHS Highland's capacity to make the "urgent and major changes" it says are required.

In a report released today the public spending watchdog says the health board identified savings of £50.5 million in 2018/19 but only managed to cut just over £30 million.

That meant it had to go to the Scottish Government to get loans of £18 million.

Audit Scotland says NHS Highland urgently needs to redesign services and focus on making significant and long-term changes to deal with complex and ongoing problems, highlighting "considerable overspends on drugs and adult social care" and "a rising locum staffing bill."

Auditor General for Scotland Caroline Gardner said: "NHS Highland urgently needs a clear and achievable plan to redesign services. This must go beyond the series of short-term fixes we have seen in the past.

"Longer-term planning is critical in ensuring it can continue to deliver the services needed by people living across the NHS Highland area. The scale of changes needed are such that the board is unlikely to become financially stable in the next two years.

"Given the board's past record in addressing problems, and the current leadership and organisational difficulties it faces, I am concerned about its capacity to bring about the necessary changes.”

Commenting on the auditBob McGlashan, Royal College of Nursing Scotland senior officer, said: "NHS Highland has significant work to do to regain the trust of the workforce.

"The need for open and honest conversations with staff and the public is even more important given the financial challenges set out by the Auditor General.

"Whatever changes the board proposes, it is crucial that they maintain the right number of staff, with the right skills to ensure safe, high quality care for patients."

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