The Scottish Government has used its “powers of intervention” to call for new leadership at NHS Tayside amid a row over its use of charity funds.
Last night Shona Robison said she was moving the cash-strapped health board to the “highest level of escalation” and instructed the chief executive of NHS Scotland to intervene “with immediate effect.”
It follows claims that NHS Tayside used at least £2.71 million from its endowment fund, made up donations from members of the public and bequests in wills, to buy a backroom computer system after running out of money in 2014.
Politicians have said this was an “apparent misuse” of the pot, which is mainly used to buy patient comforts such as toys and day rooms, not funding through routine budgets.
However the health board’s chairman has said the projects funded were “appropriate.”
NHS Tayside already owes £33million in loans to the Scottish Government which have been built up over recent years.
It has also faced criticism from the Scottish Parliament’s public audit committee after £5.3million of funding was misreported to make its balance sheet look better.
Ms Robison said: “Issues over past few weeks have laid bare the extent of the problems facing NHS Tayside and the minutes of a meeting of Trustees in 2014 outline, in detail, the approval of the use of endowment funds by the chief executive.
“It has become clear to me that the current structure of the board cannot deliver the improvements required to return to a sustainable position, while continuing to deliver safe and effective services to patients.
“In particular, I have concerns about the overall management of the board’s finances and the ability of leadership to carry through the change required to bring the board back into financial balance.”
She added: “It is imperative that all boards use charitable donations for the purposes of which they were given.
“At my request, the chief executive of NHS Scotland has written to every NHS Board chair seeking assurance that endowment monies are being spent for the correct purposes.
“We are also engaging directly with OSCR (charity watchdog the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator) on this issue.”
NHS Grampian yesterday stressed that its own endowment fund had not been used improperly.
A spokeswoman said: “The endowment fund has strict criteria to make sure that donations are only used to enhance the services that NHS Grampian provides.
“Everything the endowment fund supports must be for the benefit of patients. Our patients are at the heart of everything we do.
“Details of projects we have funded through our endowment fund are available on the website.”