NHS Highland dumping money in the Atlantic (again!)

This story – NHS Highland gets £2.5m Government ‘bailout’ – from The Scotsman makes depressing reading. Particularly so, for patients in Lochaber where we are struggling to recruit GP’s for rural practices and pregnant women travel to Inverness for routine scans because of the lack of a senior sonographer at the Belford Hospital.

Yet today’s front page splash in the Press and Journal sums up the problem at NHS Highland. It’s a further development of a story, which first appeared in 2012, when three staff went to the US to learn about new medical delivery models. Since then taxpayers have forked out another £14,000, to fly across US “experts” in business class, to train local staff. Apparently, they had to fly business class so they were able to start work straight away, without a day off to recover. The irony of an organisation that expects medical staff to work grueling shifts, or on call, often with little sleep, but wants to ensure the bureaucrats are properly rested.

That’s over £32,000 spent on various jaunts over the Atlantic. Perhaps, this expense could be justified if significant savings were identified as a result of this process or their were improvements in patient care and treatment. A £9.5 million budget overspend, and a bailout from the Scottish Government, would suggest these fact finding visits were futile.

So how much has been saved by this new model? Ms Kirkland, the Director of Quality Improvement, is unable to quantify the savings made. You would think a Director of Quality Improvement had set clear outcomes when committing at least £30,000 towards a project? She says it, “…is not about savings…,” but then states one of the criteria is to deliver “…better health, better care, better value…” Surely, if one of the three aims was to to provide better value you would have a way of measuring that outcome?

The whole saga is summed up by the health board Chairman, “It has been a difficult year for us for a variety of reasons and we have had difficulty getting control over all of our budgets.” I would suggest you start looking at the Quality Improvement budget,


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