SCOTLAND

Published: 26/05/2005, Volume II5, No. 5957 Page 14

Staff at Scotland's most troubled health board are facing three more uncertain months after a consultation was ordered into its future.

Health minister Andy Kerr announced proposals to abolish Argyll and Clyde health board and split its responsibilities between neighbouring Greater Glasgow and Highland boards. He also announced that funding of£80m had been set aside to deal with its deficit of£60m, expected to reach£100m by 2008.

The announcement was greeted with frustration from the board. A senior manager said: 'People are concerned. But we are where we are and we have to get on with it.'

Board chair John Mullin disagreed with the Scottish Executive's decision: 'I am disappointed that the minister has decided to take steps to dissolve Argyll and Clyde health board when we are almost midway through our five-year financial recovery plan, which was last week agreed with the Scottish Executive. We are on target to balance the books, as we promised.' The Scottish NHS Confederation warned that simply scrapping the board was not the answer. Director Hilary Robertson said: 'Our fear is that any proposal to restructure an organisation in this way does nothing to resolve the pressures that contributed to the problems.' The Scottish Executive also came under fire for failing to agree a recovery plan until last week despite months of meetings. Scottish National Party health spokeswoman Shona Robison said: 'This outcome is a damning indictment of the health department's failure to adequately monitor the financial plans of health boards.' Announcing the consultation on Thursday, Mr Kerr indicated that this was the first step towards cutting the number of health boards in Scotland. 'We now have the chance to make the region a benchmark in modern services.'