THE head of NHS Ayrshire and Arran has admitted to MSPs that plans for an Ayrshire ‘superhospital’ are on the backburner as the service faces ‘deteriorating’ finances.

In 2020, the service launched 'Caring for Ayrshire' - a 10-year plan that placed the development of a new hospital to replace Crosshouse and Ayr hospitals at its heart.

At the time, it was suggested that Crosshouse Hospital could have a shelf life of between “five and 10 years".

Claire Burden, who took over the top post in January 2022, told the Scottish Parliament’s Health, Social Care and Sport Committee this week that the plan, which was earmarked for Monkton, wouldn’t happen in the near future.

She told the committee that the organisation had an ‘ageing estate’ and that when she started, their focus was about ‘preparing for a new hospital’.

This has been re-evaluated, she said, adding: “It is quite clear that it is not going to happen in the very near future.”

“This has had a knock on effect”, she added.

“There is a backlog. We were obviously dramatically impacted by the pandemic. This has resulted in backlog of maintenance and underlying infrastructure weaknesses.”

She said this meant NHS Ayrshire and Arran was ‘a little bit more exposed going into 2023/24’.

Ms Burden was asked by the committee to outline the financial picture of the service.

She said: “I inherited a deficit of £26 million and we have been unable to chip into that deficit in the last year.”

Describing the ‘similar themes’ to other health boards, she said: “We have been unable to pull ourselves away from the additional beds in our system and some of our ambitions for reform have been slower than anticipated.

“The underlying position is that of a deteriorating position going into 2023/24.

“That doesn’t stifle our ambition. We know what ‘good’ looks like and we have good support from our system partners.”

NHS Ayrshire and Arran has faced a growing problem with delayed discharges, largely centred in South Ayrshire.

While there has been criticism of the plan to reduce the number of beds, the NHS says that the additional beds were only in place to provide capacity during the height of the pandemic.

The removal of the additional beds, it says, will allow staff to be redeployed to other wards.

Ms Burden said that Ayrshire and Arran has 850 core beds. However, beds added during the pandemic had increased this to almost 1,000.

She added that they were looking to remove 185 beds.

She went on to say: “The delayed transfer of care and getting people into the right climate is where we are going to make the greatest gains against our deficit.

“It has been a very difficult year for teams. But I think that, as a system, we have a greater understanding of where we can work together to make positive inroads into that deficit.

“About £14m is associated with bed-based care alone. Other pressures within the system are from medicines, energy and our infrastructure.

“I think it would be fair to say that if were able to distribute more funds into preventative and living well agendas to tackle health inequalities in the longer term, it would bear fruit.

“But our acute pressures do draw resources from that.”