SCOTLAND’S top health boss has said NHS Ayrshire and Arran “needs an intervention” because the quality of patient care is being threatened.

In a letter to the health committee at Holyrood, NHS Scotland chief executive Paul Gray said NHS Ayrshire and Arran is one of five health boards to have been escalated to “Stage 3 or above” on the NHS Board Performance Escalation Framework – meaning they need specific interventions.

On a scale of one to five, where five indicates the board is facing serious difficulties and unable to provide “effective care”, NHS Ayrshire and Arran and NHS Forth Valley are at stage three, NHS Highland and NHS Borders are at stage four and NHS Tayside is classified at stage five. All these require external support, according to the guidelines.

Audit Scotland has reported the board continue to live outwith their means as they struggle to meet demand, while health and social care integration has yet to deliver joined up financial planning.

Speaking to Holyrood’s Public Audit and Post-legislative Scrutiny Committee yesterday, Gray, who will step down from his role in February, said government reforms had been radical and aimed at tackling persistent challenges, but had to be allowed to “run their course”.

“I expect the future to be very different to today, in the same way as today is very different from ten years ago,” he said.

In October, Health Secretary Jeane Freeman announced the regional health boards – including NHS Ayrshire and Arran, will have their debts to government written off ahead of a “new deal” which will give them three years to balance their books.

John Burns, Chief Executive for NHS Ayrshire and Arran said: “We were formally advised by Scottish Government in July 2018 that NHS Ayrshire and Arran was assessed as being at stage three of the performance escalation framework. We continue to work on our transformational change programme, as well as best value work to deliver safe and sustainable services within financial balance. We continue to work with our colleagues in Scottish Government.”