IT is ‘time for change’ at NHS Borders as the under-pressure health organisation faces up to a £26m overspend next year.

Recently health bosses revealed that Borders General Hospital, near Melrose, is full to capacity with “extreme pressures” being felt across the health system in the region.

The full scale of the challenges NHS Borders faces was explored at a meeting of Scottish Borders Council’s Teviot and Liddesdale Partnership on Tuesday (November 7).

Claire Oliver, the organisation’s director of communications, presented a report entitled ‘Time for Change’.

It describes “unprecedented” challenges faced in planning and delivering services.

The report adds: “We must balance the delivery of safe, quality care within the financial and human resources available to us.

“We have significant workforce challenges, with a smaller working age population – 45 per cent vs 65 per cent nationally – operating across a large rural area and national shortages of specialist workforce in many areas.

“Our financial deficit has continued to increase over the past few years due to growth in demand and changes to the cost of healthcare. We are projecting an overspend of £26m by March 2024.”

The report states that decisions over which services are provided and which are not need to be made.

Statistics reveal that 15 per cent of community pharmacists across the Borders have no regular pharmacist on a day-to-day basis and there is currently a 10 per cent GP vacancy rate in the region.

Additionally, many NHS Borders buildings within the community are old and require upgrading and expansion.

Meanwhile, there are specific problems and trends across the region.

For example, people in Berwickshire say that GP recruitment and access to dentists were pressing issues but in Tweeddale feedback has shown that GP recruitment had actually improved.

In Cheviot and Teviot and Liddesdale people said the community hospitals were good but that they have limitations in beds and what they can do.

Efforts made to address the issues raised include the introduction of a GP Fellowship scheme to attract newly-qualified GPs to the Borders and the creation of a ‘Hospitals at Home’ pilot scheme.

The under-pressure health board will host a series of conversations with the public over the coming weeks.

Sessions are taking place in each locality and every session will be led by one of the NHS Borders board executive team. There will be an opportunity to view a presentation and have a discussion.

The first will be held at Peebles Community Centre on Tuesday (November 14) between 2pm-7pm. The following day a session will be held at Heart of Hawick from 2pm-6.30pm.

On Monday, November 27, NHS Borders will visit Abbey Row Community Centre in Kelso, then two days later head to the tapestry centre in Galashiels before finishing off in Duns on Monday, December 11. Those sessions start at 2pm and finish at 7pm.

Ralph Roberts, chief executive of NHS Borders, said: “We are currently facing unprecedented challenges in planning and delivering health services, and we know it’s time to start doing things differently.

“We need to know what matters to you so we can act on it, so we look forward to seeing you at your local Time for Change conversation and hearing what you have to say.”