NHS Highland board members have cast doubts over the possibility of achieving savings of £100million over the next three years.
The shock cuts were revealed last week in a report produced by finance director Nick Kenton which was discussed by members yesterday.
Mr Kenton said that NHS Highland faces a budget shortfall of £50million in the coming financial year alone – more than double previous projections.
And he confirmed that the total funding gap is expected to be £100million over the three years to 2020.
But Mr Kenton is confident the board can break even by the end of the financial year in April, and that all 600 budget holders within the local authority can manage their budgets to achieve this.
Yesterday following the meeting board chairman David Alston said the future savings could be achieved by adopting a “new model of care”, adding: “We need to create a model where we can recruit people to and one that delivers – not prop up old models.
“Last century hospitals were places of refuge. People stayed in hospitals for weeks and weeks. Of course we need hospitals and beds but people should spend the least time possible in hospitals. The best bed is your own bed. We want to support people as individuals in their families and in their communities and keep people at home.”
He added that there was a need to reduce dependency on locums by removing the barriers between health professionals.
Training more advanced nurse practitioners to free up more doctors is one practical measure already being implemented.
But during the meeting Elaine Wilkinson, chair of the Pharmacy Practices committee, said: “The transformation work started two or three years ago. We are not seeing the impact of it. It’s an extremely urgent situation.”
Jaci Douglas, Highland Council’s representative on the board, said: “I have huge concerns about the ability to make these savings.”
Melanie Newdick, vice chairwoman of the Highland Health and Social Care committee, said: “If we think this year’s tough, it will be a walk in the park compared to next year. I would like to set a target at the earliest point to start making traction next year.”
The revised projection for the coming year has been made following a lower than expected budget uplift from the Scottish Government, as well as a greater than expected contribution to ring-fenced projects.