Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland until I return to the Murcia region of Spain in the Autumn for a month or so
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Thursday, 8 December 2005

Scottish health board area to be split into two ...

... to do what, exactly?

Scottish health Minister Andy Kerr has announced that the Argyll and Clyde NHS board is to be abolished in March 2006 (i.e. at the end of the current financial year for most public bodies) and two constituent parts absorbed into two other health board areas. Argyll and Bute is to be transferred into NHS Highland - run out of Inverness. The remainder is to be transferred under the control of NHS Greater Glasgow.

The reasoning for this re-allocation is said to be to coincide with local government authorities and one can understand the organisational reasoning for this, upto a point (as Private Eye might say). However, has Andy Kerr ever looked at a map and seen just how far Inverness is from the southern tip of the Kintyre Peninsula? Anyway, let that pass ... no doubt video-conferencing, emails, etc will make this factor unimportant [perhaps].

However, the announcement also includes the detail that the Argyll and Clyde NHS board is GBP80m in deficit and that ministers have concluded that "[since] there was no prospect of balancing the books (and) the debt will be written off". In other words, the deficit will be absorbed by you and me, the taxpayers!

The report also states that: Mr Kerr said that redrawing the boundaries would make no change to the services that people currently accessed.

I have a question for Mr Kerr and others within our Labour/Lib-Dem coalition Scottish Executive. What is going to change in the way the health provision services are run in the future in the areas currently within the control of the Argyll and Clyde NHS board to reduce the risk, preferably eliminate it, of deficits being run up in future. Is more 'funding' (aka tax money) going to be provided or is it simply getting rid of the administrators who run the existing borad that is expected to do the trick? Or are the administrative functionss going to be enlarged in the Greater Glasgow and Highland areas to cope with the additional work, and if so will this be openly admitted, or somehow disguised. And what of their own financial positions - do they both currently return suprluses or deficits? In the case of the Highland board I think I know the answer already and, as you may imagine, it is precisely the answer you would have expected.

So is all this just a trick of accounting (and political) ledgerdemain, or is there going to be real change to improve the way in which funds allocated are spent for the primary purposes for which a health service exists - to help to prevent and cure illness - rather than to provide jobs for increasing numbers of bureaucrats. My own prescription would be pretty radical - I'd have done the abolition bit, then I'd have stopped. Naturally this solution would not appeal to the socialist state sector addicts who run our affairs in Scotland, nor indeed to most of those responsible for keeping these clowns in power.

PS/ In another report I have just seen, Auditor General Robert Black said the Scottish NHS was on course for a £183m deficit in the current financial year. He said it was "difficult to assess" whether the NHS was delivering value for money.

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