THE Scottish Government yesterday denied underfunding the UK’s biggest health board as NHS officials said rising drug costs and patient demand mean fresh cuts are necessary.

Patients and union members demonstrated against increased centralisation and staff shortages as NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGGC) held its annual review meeting.

The health board, which serves 1.2 million people across several council areas, has to find £69 million in savings during this financial year.

Officials have authorised the sale of ageing facilities to raise some cash, including the former Victoria Infirmary in Glasgow, which has been acquired by the not-for-profit housing and care provider Sanctuary Group.

The Unison union, which represents some members of the health board’s 38,000 staff, said the board is “underfunded” and “at a point of making cuts which will affect patient care”, claiming personnel shortages in nursing, catering, administration and community services are impacting workers and patients.

Calling for additional funding from the Scottish Government, regional organiser Matt McLaughlin said: “Of course it’s sensible for the Glasgow and Clyde Health Board to off-load land and property that it no longer uses. However, planning to recover £23m by selling off 19 sites across the area, including Victoria Infirmary, Merchiston, Blawarthill and Drumchapel Hospital, suggests that the board are desperate to release fast cash to help plug the gap.

“Unison is really worried that any failure to release such a significant amount of cash will mean that the board have to come back later in the financial year and make deeper, tougher cuts that will impact on services.”

The union held a vigil in support of staff at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital yesterday, as patients gathered to hit out against the withdrawal of services from local centres as part of savings measures.

A consultation will now be held about a series of changes, including the closure of the children’s ward at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley, and midwife-led units at the Vale of Leven Hospital, in Alexandria, and the Inverclyde Royal in Greenock.

Decisions on these and other measures are expected later in the year, but yesterday campaigners accused NHSGGC of “mismanagement”.

Single mother Karen Meikle said the loss of the children’s ward in Paisley would affect her sons Alex, who has a severe form of cerebral palsy, and Josh, who has joint condition hypermobility.

She said: “The priorities are wrong. They should never have built the new hospital. Centralisation might work for Glasgow, but it’s not centralisation for us.

“Paisley is the biggest town in Scotland. We need to have services for everyone in place. If they’re pulling staff out of the children’s ward, this will have a trickle-down effect on others.”

The NHS said formal proposals on changes will go before the board next month and reiterated a consultation will be held before a decision is made.

A spokesperson added: “Despite our above-inflation uplift, we are operating in a climate where patient demands are increasing and the cost of new health technologies and new drugs are rising at a rate higher than inflation.”

Health Secretary Shona Robison said: “This year NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde received an additional £103.7m from the Scottish Government. This is an increase of 5.2 per cent, bringing the board’s overall funding to a record level of £2.08 billion.”

She added: “The Scottish Government’s commitment to increasing NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde’s budget demonstrates our continuing investment in improving care.”