Malcolm calls on the Scottish Government to fund the NHS in Lothians fairly
Questions on NHS Funding for the Lothians Malcolm Chisholm (Edinburgh North and Leith) (Lab):
In view of the funding challenges that the national health service faces, does the cabinet secretary think that it is particularly important that each NHS board should get the funding share to which it is entitled under the NHS Scotland resource allocation committee formula?

Is she concerned that, this year, NHS Lothian is getting 13.69 per cent of the cake although it is entitled to 14.61 per cent of it? That is a funding gap of 69 million. It is even more concerning that the gap is 5 million greater than it was last year.

Nicola Sturgeon (The Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing):
Malcolm Chisholm asks an important question, which he is right to ask as a member for the Lothians. As a former health minister, he is aware that a number of boards in Scotland, including NHS Lothian, get below their parity share of funding. That has not been the case only under the NRAC system; it was also the case under the previous allocation formula which, of course, the previous Government introduced.

We have made a commitment, as the previous Government did, to move those boards' funding up towards the share that they should receive as quickly as possible. That has to be done gradually because doing it in a one-off would involve taking money away from other boards. I do not think that that would be appropriate, which is why I have given a commitment that no board will lose any funding as we move towards the target shares under the NRAC. I hope that all members welcome that commitment.

Finally, Malcolm Chisholm will be aware that, for the past couple of years, NHS Lothian has received a greater increase in its budget than boards that are not below NRAC parity, for the purpose of bringing it closer to that. As long as we are able to continue to do that within the funding arrangements, we will continue to make progress.
May 13th 2010 (Column 26189-90) Malcolm Chisholm (Edinburgh North and Leith) (Lab):
When I last raised the issue of NHS Lothian not getting the share of health money to which it is entitled, the cabinet secretary said that she recognised the problem and was taking action. However, how can such action be effective when each year the gap between what Lothian gets and what it is entitled to gets bigger rather than smaller? Surely, given the big challenges that the cabinet secretary rightly emphasised in her previous answer, it is more critical than ever that boards get their full entitlement as quickly as possible. Will the cabinet secretary start to narrow the gap for Lothian instead of seeing it increase year by year?

Nicola Sturgeon (The Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing):
Malcolm Chisholm knows that I have huge respect for him and it is right that as an MSP from Edinburgh he comes to the chamber and raises these very important issues. I have to say that I believe that I have been very frank in recognising the position that NHS Lothian is in.

That said, I gently remind Mr Chisholm that the issue of some health boards in Scotland receiving less than their parity share has not just arisen under this Government; it was also an issue under the previous allocation formula and when he was Minister for Health and Community Care. Like him and my predecessor Andy Kerr, I am trying to close that gap and take boards that are below parity up to parity; I note, for example, that this year NHS Lothian received a higher increase than other boards to help it along the path. However, we have to do that gradually because any other approach would involve taking money away from other health boards. If members are asking me to do that, I really think that they should also tell me which health boards I should take the money from.

I think that that is the right way to go. In times of tight finances, it will take us longer to do it than it would have done when finances were not tight. Nevertheless, we will continue to make as much progress as possible and I will ensure that members who have an understandable and justifiable interest in the issue are kept fully informed of that progress.
May 27th 2010 (Column 26711-2)