Legislation aims to prevent health boards raiding money donated to NHS charities in Scotland

New legislation in Scotland aims to prevent health boards raiding money donated to NHS charities. 

The announcement follows an earlier investigation by the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator that found NHS Tayside took donations made to a charitable fund to pay for core expenditure.

OSCR opened an inquiry into the Tayside NHS Board Endowment Fund in April 2018 after reports said it had made grants of £2.7m to NHS Tayside’s health board for IT projects the health board had already paid for.

The OSCR later criticised the charitable fund for making the £2.7m grant but stopped short of taking enforcement action against the charity.

Following its inquiry, the OSCR said the Scottish government should review laws governing NHS endowment funds.

At the end of last week, SNP health secretary Humza Yousaf outlined the key findings of the independent review to Scottish parliament members.

The review made 28 recommendations to improve the overall governance arrangements of NHS charities. 

Yousaf said: “The most significant of the recommendations is that the existing corporate trustee should be replaced with a charitable board that would comprise an independent chair and a majority of independent members, which means a chair and a majority of members who are not drawn from the executive or non-executive membership of the related NHS board.”

The review also recommends making governing documents for each endowment fund public and calls for the introduction of limited liability for board members of the endowment funds.

The legislation governing NHS charities in Scotland has not been updated since the 1970s and Yousaf said that while he supported the review’s recommendations work was needed to ensure there were no unintended consequences in its implementation. 

He said he wanted to protect the intent behind those funds especially “with unprecedented levels of donations having been made to NHS charities throughout the pandemic”.

“Trustees are required to consider the interests of the charity separately and distinctly from those of the related health board. 

“I fully accept that we need to ensure that structures and governance arrangements safeguard endowment funds and that they support those who are responsible to act in the best interests of the charities at all times,” he added.

Yousaf said a consultation to discuss how best to take the recommendations forward would be opened among a range of stakeholders including the OSCR, NHS boards and people who donate to NHS charities.

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