THE health board in Ayrshire is on the verge of racking up a £22 million debt this year.

And that is despite NHS Ayrshire and Arran slashing the amount spent on agency nurses and other cutbacks.

Now the Scottish Government is poised to step in and wipe of £20m of that amount.

A report presented at a board meeting this week said the “Scottish Government are currently planning on £20 million of brokerage.”

The board had already overspent by £17.7m up to the end of December last year and that debt could soar to £22.4m by the end of March.

Health bosses are under pressure to reduce that number before the end of this financial year.

Board Chair Martin Cheyne said: “It is right to see that we as an organisation are keen to get below the £22.4 million and we are working as hard as we can towards that.”

North Ayrshire Council leader, Joe Cullinane, who attended the meeting, said: “How many cuts are the health board looking at making during 2019 to 2020?”

“NHS Ayrshire & Arran have severely overspent and been underfunded.

“They have received loans from the Scottish Government.

“But the headline budget won’t be enough to meet the demands of the health board and the citizens across Ayrshire.”

Director of Finance, Derek Lindsay, told the board it “has managed to reduce spend in agency nursing.”

The report said: “ Whilst it may not be possible to completely eradicate the use of agency nurses, a further £1m reduction is on target to be achieved in 2018/2019.”

There has been a dramatic reduction over the last three years with costs paid on external nursing staff dropping by half.

The figure dipped from £3.1m in 2016/2017 to £1.9m in 2017/2018.

The risk for “financial performance” overall has been branded as “high” in the report.

Initially, the board predicted its shortfall would be £20m this year. It is now working on a three-year budget plan.