Last Friday was the last NHS Lothian Parliamentarians briefing of this session. As ever a major part of the meeting was dominated by discussions on the budget, the pressure of delayed discharges and the importance of GP services as everyone’s first point of contact with the NHS.
If anyone was in any doubt about the financial pressures facing NHS Lothian, they should take a look at the health board’s submission to the Scottish Parliament’s health committee in November. It was made in response to the committee’s call for evidence regarding its scrutiny of the Scottish Government’s health budget for 2016/17.
Not only does the board suggest that it is not receiving its fair share of funding from the Scottish Government when compared to other parts of the country, it also highlights a £60m funding gap for the next financial year (see page 5).
To add to this, in 2014 NHS Lothian published a document stating that it had to make £400m of efficiency savings within the next decade. You can read about this here. It would appear from the recent health board papers that NHS Lothian is having real difficulty in meeting its efficiency savings targets.
The significant financial pressures on the health board can be explained in large part by the systemic underfunding from the Scottish Government over the years and the fact that we have one of fastest growing populations in Scotland leading to a huge increase in demand on services.
The hugely negative impact of the financial pressure on our health services is there for all to see. Edinburgh Royal Infirmary is consistently failing to meet its A&E targets and in a response to my recent Freedom of Information request the health board revealed that in the last three years over 350,000 bed days have been lost to delayed discharge.
NHS Lothian has said that it would welcome a review of the funding it receives. The Scottish Government should listen to the health professionals. If it fails to do so it will simply store up even more problems for NHS Lothian in future years. My recent surgeries have been dominated by lack of care services for older people, reductions in respite care, and the difficulties increasing numbers of Edinburgh residents experience in accessing GP services.
My colleague Richard Simpson MSP welcomed the additional £20m that the SNP Government announced last week but noted that “the SNP have cut £1.6 billion from primary care in the past decade, so in that context £20 million is little more than a sticking plaster.” He put the current pressure on GP services in context by saying it was “the biggest crisis in family doctors for a generation”. The fact that practices serving communities are overstretched and under resourced is clear to see in Edinburgh.