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Scottish Government yet to approve NHS Grampian’s £36 million cuts budget

By Lewis McBlane

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DESPITE agreeing £36 million of cuts last month, NHS Grampian’s budget still has not been signed off by the Scottish Government.

The budget for NHS Grampian has not been approved by the Scottish Government, as discussions are ongoing.
The budget for NHS Grampian has not been approved by the Scottish Government, as discussions are ongoing.

The total set to be saved, an NHS Grampian Board Meeting heard last week, was only half of the £78 million required to hit spending targets.

Funding cuts were required after the Scottish Government, In January, told health boards that all capital infrastructure projects would be “indefinitely paused”.

Among the stalled Moray projects were a new MRI scanner at Dr Gray’s, safety improvements at mental health unit Ward 4, and improvements to Buckie’s Seafield Hospital.

The last NHS Grampian board meeting, in March, agreed a budget in response to the “absolutely unprecedented” cash pressures.

A similar “crisis” budget was also recently agreed by the Moray Integrated Joint Board , covering health and social care in Moray.

Interim chief executive of NHS Grampian Dr Adam Coldwells admitted that the health board does not have a “completed, approved budget”, and government health officials had continued to push them on an undisclosed “part of the budget”.

The Scottish Government has only confirmed details of the funding it will provide for this year, but has warned health boards not to expect any increases in coming years.

Holyrood targets state that NHS Grampian must keep its overspend below £15 million this year — having began their cutting effort facing a £94 million cash gap.

“Although we don’t have a completed, approved budget, there is lots of it that we have got agreement around already,” Dr Coldwells said.

“As teams, we’ve started on that already so we’re not in complete limbo.

“It’s really around a part of the budget that we’re working hard on.

“Finding the best way to do that part.”

Board member Professor Siladitya Bhattacharya said the health board was doing an “extraordinary amount of work” in the face of “unprecedented financial challenges”.

However, despite only being halfway to their cuts target, board members pledged that — unlike during the Covid-19 pandemic — they were not considering suspending non-critical services.

Mark Burrell said savings would be made by making services more efficient, rather than stopping them entirely.

“We know that stopping services is just never a great thing to do and so it's how we make those services more efficient,” he said.

“We've learned some lessons from COVID, and stopping services just leaves a big, big backlog of stuff that just takes a long time to get through.”

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