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Scottish public services under pressure

There are concerns for Scotland’s public services, according to a report by Audit Scotland.

The watchdog estimates the budget for 2011/12 will be £27.5bn, which is a drop of 6%, or £1.7bn. The worst case scenario would be a drop of 11%.

Public services may struggle to achieve these required savings, as few managers have had experience of cuts on such a level. Additionally, further pressures on the education system with more people going to university and the growing demand for health and social care as the population ages will make the next year difficult.

The report states: “Given efficiency targets have been in place for seven years now, there is a risk that further efficiency savings may be harder to find without making fundamental changes to the way public services are organised and delivered.”

Scotland’s auditor general Bob Black said: “Strong leadership and governance in Scotland’s public bodies are vital to deal successfully with the most difficult financial conditions since devolution. Public bodies should overhaul the way they plan by looking at long-term sustainability, setting clear priorities and intended outcomes and then setting their budgets based on these.”

Scottish Finance Secretary John Swinney said: “This Audit Scotland report is a useful reminder of the extremely challenging period ahead for whole of the public sector in light of Westminster cuts. It is imperative that every public body gets maximum value and delivers efficient and effective public services in constrained financial circumstances.”

Dr Brian Keighley, chairman of the BMA in Scotland said: “It would be naive to expect that this will not have an impact on patient care and access to healthcare services.

“It is vital that the Scottish Government is honest in its approach to achieving savings in the NHS. Workforce morale is a valuable asset in tough financial times and managers and politicians must harness the goodwill of doctors and other clinical professionals to lead the reform of services that will achieve savings with minimal impact on patient care.

“Long term planning is required; service reconfiguration will be inevitable and workforce planning is essential. This will require strong political leadership to inform the public of the challenges that lie ahead.”

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