NEWS - SCOTLAND

Published: 08/12/2005 Volume 115 No. 5985 Page 8

NHS boards in Scotland are predicting a£183m funding gap in the current financial year.

An Audit Scotland report, published today, also reveals that the Scottish Executive Health Department overspent its budget last year by£32m, a breach of regulations which has resulted in a qualification in the Scottish Executive's accounts.

The report, An Overview of the Performance of the NHS in Scotland 2004-05, shows the service is likely to meet tough new targets on waiting times for treatment and outpatient appointments, but is struggling with financial pressure. It is also likely to miss this month's target of a two-month maximum wait from urgent referral to treatment for all cancers.

The report reveals that boards clawed their way out of a£260m funding gap in 2004-05, largely by using non-recurring funding - a move which auditors warn is unsustainable. Even so, four boards - Argyll and Clyde, Grampian, Western Isles and Lanarkshire - notched up a£91.1m overspend between them.

Overall the report shows that some boards - and the SEHD itself - are failing to predict accurately the cost of structural reform and the three new pay deals for GPs, consultants and other health workers.