Scottish health secretary signals health funding review


Health Secretary Jeane Freeman has told MSPs the formula used to allocate funding to Scotland’s health boards needs to be reviewed in the run-up to the planned creation of a national care service to enable a “whole system approach” to be taken to health and social care.


Speaking to the Scottish Parliament’s Health and Sport Committee this week, Ms Freeman was asked whether NRAC – the NHSScotland Resource Allocation Committee calculation used to allocate funding to NHS boards – was still the best way for money to be allocated.


“All formulas have their advantages and disadvantages” the Health Secretary said, “but I think though at this point the safest thing to say is that [NRAC] should be reviewed, partly in light of the pandemic, but also potentially in light of the review of adult social care.”


The review, published last week, called for a national care service to be created in which councils are stripped of their responsibilities for commissioning and procurement of social care services.


Review lead Derek Feeley instead recommended Integration Joint Boards be directly funded by the government, overseen by ministers and given full responsibility for commissioning care services.


Ms Freeman told the committee that the government is content with the recommendations that the review team made.


At the end of last month, Finance Secretary Kate Forbes announced spending on health was to increase to more than £16bn, including a rise of more than £800m for core NHS services and £896m worth of covid support.


The Health Secretary said the government was continuing to examine how health and care systems worked through the pandemic, including financially.


She added that reconsideration of the basis on which funds were allocated would be underpinned by a desire to see a “whole system approach” adopted when it comes to health and social care.


It was in September 2020 that the Health Secretary first signalled reform of NHS boards’ funding was on the horizon for after the pandemic.


Ms Freeman’s comments today were delivered with the caveat that updated remobilisation reports were due in from regional health boards by the end of this month – and were expected to cover not just healthcare but health and social care “as one system”.


The evidence given in Parliament today comes after the Health Secretary issued a lengthy response to the Committee on its report on the 2021-22 Scottish Budget.


Several regional health boards were in escalation measures before the pandemic, meaning they were in receipt of specialist intervention and support to address serious funding concerns. Now, few if any health boards are expected to meet any savings targets and all face ongoing costs related to covid, including administering the test and protect and vaccination programmes.


Ms Freeman’s response to Parliament outlined that the Scottish government would provide non-repayable additional funding to meet any financial shortfalls so all boards can deliver financial balance in the year 2020-21.


For the 2021-22 financial year, however, there is no such commitment at this stage though the Health Secretary said there would be ongoing “due consideration” for the effects of the virus.


By Sarah Nimmo


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