Patients could be set to spend less time in hospital as NHS Tayside bids to balance its books, the Tele can reveal.
A series of plans, including cutting the time that people spend receiving treatment in local facilities, are being put in place as health chiefs look to find £200 million of savings in the next five years.
The revelation came after the Auditor General for Scotland identified a series of challenges for NHS Tayside in achieving a balanced budget in the coming years — saying it had already been forced to rely on several Scottish Government loans to get by and faced a significant funding gap.
The auditor also said that NHS Tayside had yet to identify where some of its savings would be made.
Responding to the report in an interview with the Tele, Professor John Connell, chairman of NHS Tayside, admitted mistakes had been made.
He said: “We do take responsibility for the financial situation we find ourselves in.
“One of the reasons we are facing this position is because in the past the board have been guilty of shying away from making difficult decisions about where savings could be made.
“This situation has arisen over a considerable period of time.
“Our twin challenge now is to deliver high-quality, safe and effective healthcare for our population while redesigning our services so they are fit for the future.
“People will see changes in how we work in the future.
“Our Five Year Transformation Programme will fundamentally change the way we deliver health and care services in Tayside and return to sustainable financial balance.”
He said one of the key ways of achieving this was changing the way people are treated.
He said: “There is a huge amount spent on surgery.
“Traditionally patients expect to spend a long time in hospital when they are in for an operation.
“We plan to redesign this by keeping patients in for a much shorter time than before.
“We hope to get patients in and out of hospital as quickly as possible, lessening the risk of hospital-acquired infections and causing fewer side effects, such as muscle wastage.
“This doesn’t mean treatment and care will be reduced.
“It means it will be managed differently at home and in the community.”
NHS Tayside chief executive Lesley McLay admitted the board had a “demanding programme” of change ahead but said she believed it was working towards a more sustainable future.
She added: “We have already taken decisive action including stopping the use of contract nursing agency staff in some areas, undertaking a wide-ranging programme of work to address prescribing costs and identifying additional actions to close our financial gap.”
Auditor General Caroline Gardner said NHS Tayside was in a worse financial position than most other Scottish health boards and said bosses faced “significant financial difficulties”.
She added: “I am in no doubt that significant changes need to be made at Tayside to improve things and I will be monitoring the situation carefully.
“The board has made some improvements over the past year but more needs to be done to address over-prescribing and staffing costs.
“There is little doubt the board will have to make significant changes to how it operates in the future.”