A nursing leader has implored the Scottish Finance Secretary not to focus on efficiency savings ahead of today's (21 September) Budget review.
John Swinney is to set out his first budget since the Scottish National Party's victory in May this year.
Yesterday (20 September) Swinney published figures outlining his requirement for public bodies to deliver efficiencies of at least 3% this year.
"Set against the deep cuts to Scotland's budget from Westminster, the spending review for the next three years will intensify our focus on value for money and continue to squeeze every penny out of every pound to get the best, most efficient and effective public services," he said.
Theresa Fyffe, Director of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Scotland, warned efficiency savings are not always "clear cut" and may be "service cuts in all but name".
"The new 3% efficiencies target for the current financial year will squeeze even more money out of health boards that are already trying to make savings," said Fyffe.
"Consequently, saving money by losing nursing and other staff from the pay roll looks set to continue which, in turn, puts standards in patient care at risk."
She said the Scottish Government needs to use the budget for 2012-2013 to set out a clear vision of how it wants to work with the NHS and its workforce to ensure high quality care, instead of placing a "continuous squeeze" on healthcare.
Such a move is necessary to avoid ending up with an NHS that "requires emergency treatment in the future", she claims.