Multi-million pound bailout for Highland health board

Savings target exceeded but Scottish Government 'brokerage' is still required.

NHS Highland has balanced its books for the year but still needs an £11m taxpayer bailout to achieve it.

Board members who joined an online video-conference, as part of coronavirus social distancing, have had confirmation that the organisation surpassed its savings target of £28m for 2019-20.

Finance director David Garden told colleagues that a range of “cost improvement schemes” had delivered “significant results”.

He said: “A wide range of cost pressures were absorbed during the year, meaning total savings of £35m were achieved.

“Over £16m of the savings identified are recurrent in nature which makes a considerable contribution to our target to achieve financial balance by the end of 2021-22.”

Recurrent savings are those with a benefit beyond the financial year in which savings are made. They represent permanent change as opposed to ‘one-off’ savings, which the board believes will allow it to meet its target during the year but do not have a benefit beyond that period.

The Scottish Government has promised to back the board with “brokerage” of £11.4m for 2019-20.

NHS Highland chief executive Paul Hawkins said: “I have never seen the levels of savings achieved by an NHS board of this size in a single year.

“I want to thank all of the staff across Highland who have worked incredibly hard to deliver these savings.”

He said the saving had been achieved “with continued focus on improving health and social care services and with the full support of our staff and stakeholders”.

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