Aberdeen’s health and social care chiefs are to exhaust their cash reserves to cover a recurring overspend – in part because of the cost of treating some of the city’s most poorly elsewhere.
The Integrated Joint Board (IJB) of Aberdeen City Health And Social Care Partnership (ACHSCP) will meet next week to discuss spending plans for the coming year.
A briefing, issued to board members ahead of Tuesday’s meeting, predicts a £2.5 million overspend by the authority by the end of the financial year.
Financial officers have blamed a rise in the number of patients sent out of the city for treatment for the overspend – a recurring problem in their budgeting in recent years.
Patients, generally those with the most severe conditions, are sent to specialist facilities across the country if there is no suitable care available in the Granite City.
Previous estimates have placed the cost at between £100,000-£250,000 to treat only one patient with the most serious learning disabilities.
An increase in cost and demand for medicines is also being blamed for the un-budgeted spend, as are the rising costs of running out-of-hours GP and forensic medical examination services.
Insufficient budgeting for night-time cover for consultants at the city’s Woodend Hospital has also contributed.
These rising costs will this year be covered by ACHSCP’s risk fund, which will be depleted to cover the £2.5 million bill.
ACHSCP has done the same in previous years but has replenished cash reserves in its budget process.
But this year, finance officials have recommended members do not do the same – as it would only add to the £5.7 million total the board has to cut from its spending.
Asked what would happen if the IJB were to encounter similar hard-to-predict cost rises next year, chairwoman Sarah Duncan said: “Aberdeen is one of the few IJBs that has not had to go back to its funding partners for more money come March.
“Lots of others have had to as they did not set up risk reserves, but it was prudent for us to do so in the first few years.
“I hope we won’t have to go back to the council or NHS Grampian for help at the end of next year. I am confident in our plan to reduce costs.”
The IJB has commissioned a review of the use of locum and agency staff at Woodend Hospital, mental health services and medical practices, with the hope of saving £1 million in 2020-21.
Another £1.6 million will be saved in a review of where care workers are sent – in an effort to ease recruitment issues in some parts of the city.