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Scotland's health 'is not improving', auditors warn

From BBC - October 25, 2017

Scotland's health "is not improving" as the NHS faces "significant challenges", Audit Scotland has warned.

The watchdog's annual report lists concerns over missed targets, longer waiting times, "stalled" improvements and growing pressure on budgets.

Scottish Labour has renewed its calls for Health Secretary Shona Robison to quit in light of the report.

Ms Robison insisted that "significant" improvements have been made, while stressing that there is "no quick fix".

The Scottish government published its "blueprint" for the future of the NHS in December 2016, aiming to treat people closer to home rather than in hospital.

Audit Scotland's latest annual report stated that there was a "general consensus in Scotland that healthcare cannot continue to be provided in the same way", but concluded that "more progress needs to be made if transformational change is to happen".

'Significant challenges'

It found that existing challenges like "increasing costs, growing demand, and the continuing pressures on public finances" had continued to "intensify" in 2016-17.

The public spending watchdog said there had been progress, but warned that "fundamental" areas still needed to be addressed.

"Significant concerns" flagged up in the report include:

At 12.9bn, health funding now accounts for 43% of the overall Scottish government budget.

Despite an increase in the NHS budget, rising operating costs have meant health boards had to make "unprecedented" savings of almost 390m in order to break even.

And while the budget for 2017-18 saw an increase in cash terms, there was actually a decrease of 0.1% in real terms from the prior year.

The Audit Scotland report concluded that simply adding more funding was "no longer sufficient" to achieve the "step change" needed across the system.

It said that budgeting on a year-by-year basis is "hindering development of longer-term plans for moving more care out of hospital", and said a clearer long-term financial framework was "critical".

'Positive impact'

However, the report did state that there is a "positive basis on which to build" for Scotland's NHS.

It noted that Scotland has had "a consistent overall policy direction in health for many years" and there was "broad consensus" on goals.

It said that staff "remain committed to providing high-quality care", while levels of overall patient satisfaction "continue to be high" and the Scottish public "hold the NHS in high regard".

'Crisis after crisis'

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