12 November 2004
Scottish Finance Minister Tom McCabe has warned health service managers that performance must improve to justify the substantial increases in resources that have led to higher spending per head than in England and Wales.
Giving evidence to the Scottish Parliament's finance committee this week, he also stressed the importance of reassuring Whitehall that the record levels of investment made available by the chancellor would result in tangible returns.
McCabe was responding to concerns voiced by committee convener Des McNulty that extra financial resources have not resulted in better productivity or improvements in the service.
McNulty also pointed to the risk of substantial deficits in health board areas. Audit Scotland warned recently that Argyll and Clyde Health Board faced a £100m deficit by 2008.
Giving an assurance that the issues would be examined, McCabe said these included concerns about the funding of new contracts and new developments in the health service.
He added: 'However, we must say to people in Scotland – particularly to the people who manage our health services – that there is no bottomless pit and that they have received significant amounts of additional resources.
'Their management skills must in part begin to demonstrate much more clearly to people in Scotland that there is a meaningful return for that investment.'
A report by the Scottish Parliament's audit committee earlier this year disclosed that planned health spending per head of the population in Scotland in 2004/05 was £1,593 compared with £1,396 in England. For 2005/06, the planned figures are £1,731 (Scotland) and £1,532 (England).
McCabe said: 'We have more nurses, consultants and doctors per 10,000 of the population than any other area of the UK. It is critical that we take the appropriate measures and give the reassurance that we will start to see real returns from the size of the investment in our health service.'
He went on: 'It is important to say to our colleagues in Whitehall, who have done such a fantastic job in supplying resources for our national health service, that we are determined to ensure that the investment that the chancellor has made available will result in greatly improved performance.'