FINANCE Scottish Executive has still to announce this year's budget

Published: 05/05/2005, Volume II5, No. 5954 Page 8

Managers and GPs in Scotland have been left in limbo because the Scottish Executive has yet to agree the general medical services budget for the current financial year.

The delay follows the executive's failure to allocate enough money to fund the new contract last year, leaving boards with the higher than anticipated bill for the quality and outcomes framework.

A Scottish Executive spokesman confirmed to HSJ that the funding envelope was not yet agreed. He said: 'It has been important to evaluate how current budgets have been spent in the first year of the contract and work through a number of complex issues; to ensure we get this right rather than rush it.' Dr David Love, joint chair of the British Medical Association's Scottish GP Committee, said the issue had been raised with the executive last November.

'This should have been agreed ages ago, ' he said. 'It is immensely frustrating because we do not know how much money will be allocated.' The executive has already admitted that it underestimated the likely costs of paying for the framework by at least£18m, but HSJ understands that enhanced services have also cost more than anticipated.

Dr Love said the delay made it difficult for boards to contract for enhanced services and many were continuing only on a short-term, interim basis until the funding was announced.

Scottish NHS Confederation director Hilary Robertson said:

'From the point of view of NHS boards, we hope that the executive will be realistic when it does come up with the GMS allocation and, as was said at the outset, covers the cost of the new contract in full. Otherwise it will be an additional and unexpected pressure at a time when boards are already under considerable pressure.' The delay may have been exacerbated by a change in health minister last year and personnel changes among the civil servants responsible for GMS funding.