NHS BORDERS has been served with a damning critique after the Scottish Parliament’s Health and Sport Committee demanded an explanation relating to the trust’s poor performance at a recent evidence session.

In a letter addressed to outgoing NHS Borders Chairman John Raine, the Convener of the Health and Sport Committee, Lewis MacDonald MSP, declared that “the Committee were concerned at the weakness of evidence given in relation to strategic thinking and planning.”

Health Boards from across the country have been attending one-off evidence sessions in front of the Health and Sport Committee to provide Holyrood with updates regarding their delivery of healthcare, integrated care and self-assessment of performance.

NHS Borders chiefs appeared before MSPs on March 12, with Mr Raine accompanied by fellow board members, and the Committee have wasted no time in demanding further explanations relating to several concerns raised during the evidence session.

Mr MacDonald has asked NHS Borders to explain Mr Raine’s claim that he believed the trust was on track to “be the best in Scotland in terms of delivering services” and on course to meet national targets for outpatient appointments and diagnostic tests.

He cited the fact that previous reporting on these targets suggested a failure to consistently achieve the standards expected by government.

Karen Hamilton, Interim Chair of the Board, said: “A key focus for NHS Borders has been waiting times where we have achieved very good performance by the end of March:

· We have no outpaitents waiting longer than 12 weeks

· We have 1 inpatient waiting longer than 12 weeks

· Our Emergency Department performance against the four-hour standard is 96.5%

· Our most recent figures (at January) show that 100% of our patients receive their first treatment within the national 31 day treatment waiting time target and 90.6% of those with a suspicion of cancer are seen within 62 days

· At February 79 patients were waiting more than 6 weeks for diagnostics, which is a significant reduction from 441 in March 2018

“There is more to do linked to the services we provide but it has been a strategic priority to reduce waiting times for the people of the Borders.”

Further concerns were raised surrounding a lack of clarity relating to proposed initiatives to reduce the number of delayed discharges - when a patient is clinically ready for discharge but cannot leave hospital because necessary care, support or accommodation for them is not readily accessible.

The Convener also sought clarification on the financial overspend of the Integration Joint Board (IJB), set up to facilitate partnership between the health board and social care authorities, with his letter stating, “the evidence provided in relation to the IJB overspend for the 18/19 financial year was confusing.”

NHS Borders is now preparing to respond to the Committee’s letter. Mrs Hamilton commented:

“We will be responding with the information that the Health & Sports Committee has asked for in due course.

“Regarding strategic thinking, planning and our anticipation of brokerage: initially we have developed a one-year financial plan which will be considered by the Board on 4th April.

“A longer-term three-year strategy to return us to financial balance will be formulated for Board consideration by August and this will draw on our Clinical Strategy, the Integrated Joint Board’s Strategic Plan and Scottish Government policy and strategic direction.

“At this point in time it is correct to say that we have not yet concluded how long we may require brokerage for, and we are working together with Scottish Government and our Turnaround Team on that for consideration in the three-year financial strategy referred to above.”

Mr Raine, who stepped down as NHS Borders Chairman recently following the completion of his maximum term of eight years, praised the trust upon his departure.

He said: “I see the excellent results of your work in the meetings I attend, the reports I receive, the statistics that pass across my desk, and in the many letters from patients, carers and families that provide the real testimony to your endeavours.

“We have big financial challenges like so many parts of the NHS across the UK, but we also have some of the best performing services in Scotland.

“I believe timely access to good quality care is what Borders people want most. That is what you provide.”

Mr Rainie’s replacement, Karen Hamilton, will have until April 18 to supply the convener of the Health and Sport Committee with a response to his concerns.