NHS Ayrshire and Arran will have all debt for the last five years wiped in a new move from the Scottish Government.

Cabinet Secretary for Public Health and Sport, Jeane Freeman MSP, has confirmed that NHS Boards in Scotland will receive a “new deal” to provide more flexibility in delivering quality care.

To allow more funds to be spent on patients, the SNP Government will not seek to recoup brokerage paid to health boards in the last five years.

In a statement to the Scottish Parliament, Ms Freeman announced that NHS territorial boards will now be required to set out finance and improvement plans that break even over a three-year period. Currently, plans are assessed over one year. Boards will then have the flexibility to underspend or overspend by up to 1 per cent of their budget in any year.

Ms Freeman announced this while outlining a new medium term financial framework for Scotland’s health and social care. This sets out the twin approach of investment and reform to meet the increasing demands on Scotland’s health and care system.

Ms Freeman said: “For this new deal to be successful it needs a new start. So, to give all our boards clear ground to move forward on that three-year planning cycle, I will not seek to recover NHS boards’ outstanding brokerage; the expenditure incurred by Territorial Boards over the last five years that was above their budget.

“I want all boards to focus on delivering the measures set out in the Health and Social Care Delivery Plan and this Financial Framework, and to do so safely and appropriately, ensuring they maintain a strong focus on services to patients that is safe, effective, person centred and timely.”

Cunninghame North MSP Kenneth Gibson added: “In 2017/18, NHS Ayrshire and Arran received £23 million in brokerage from the SNP Government, to help achieve an in-year financial balance in the face of challenges such as keeping hospital beds open to manage demand that was not budgeted for. This debt – and that garnered in the preceding four years – will now be written off to give the Board a clean slate for better, demand-responsive financial planning as it moves forward.

“All NHS boards are required to demonstrate, in both publicly available reports and through regular contact with government, that they are managing their budgets prudently and delivering value for money.

“The SNP Government will continue to engage with NHS Ayrshire and Arran and other boards to ensure that public funds are used to dispense the high quality health and social care that patients expect.”

Jamie Greene, Conservative MSP for the West Scotland region, welcomed the news but said the SNP need to take the blame for the debt and told the Times: “I sincerely hope that today’s announcement will give NHS Ayrshire and Arran the security that it needs going forward and allow it to properly plan for the future. Looking ahead, it will need to ensure that its policies are not only good for the balance sheet but good for the patients too. This is of paramount importance.

“It’s important to remember that it was years of mismanagement by this SNP Government that resulted in the debt crisis in NHS Ayrshire and Arran and whilst I welcome Jeanne Freeman’s announcement, the SNP must still take their share of the blame for what transpired at the health board.

“The health board has a number of challenges that need to be addressed, particularly around availability of GPs and hospital waiting times. Resetting the finances are a good step but more action is required to ensure that patients are afforded the health service that they deserve. The responsibility remains with the SNP Government to start delivering for the people of North Ayrshire and Arran.”