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Contract and prescribing put pressure on Scottish trusts

Primary care trusts and NHS boards face severe financial pressure as a result of rising prescribing costs and the new GMS contract, according to the Scottish Executive's spending watchdog.

Audit Scotland's annual report into NHS expenditure revealed PCTs were having their budgets raided to fund massive hospital deficits.

Tayside NHS Board transferred a £6.7 million underspend from Tayside PCT to help pay off acute trust debts.

Some trusts have also been reliant on non-recurring funding, such as the sale of property or land, to break even.

Auditor General Robert Black expressed concern about the financial state of four NHS bodies and reported that five trusts, including two PCTs, failed to break even in 2002/3.

Dr Andrew Buist, secretary of Tayside LMC and a GP in Blairgowrie, said he knew nothing of the underspend. 'The money certainly could have been well spent in primary care, such as on mental health and community nurses,' he said.

Dr Colin Brown, secretary of Argyll and Clyde LMC and a GP in Paisley, said there was 'a good deal of gloom' among GPs. 'We know the health board [NHS Argyll and Clyde] is seriously in debt,' he said.

The report found community prescribing costs soared by 10 per cent to £773million in 2002/3 and prescriptions dispensed rose by 5 per cent to 70 million.

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