NHS Highland’s overspend at the end of this financial year has shot up again and is now projected at £22.6m, it emerged at a Highland NHS board meeting in Inverness yesterday.
That’s £1.2m more than anticipated in the last projection given two months ago.
At that point NHS Highland was predicting a £21.4m overspend this year, while negotiating a £15m Scottish Government bail-out for last financial year.
NHS Highland interim director of finance David Garden said: “A savings target of £50.7m is required for 2018/19, with £31.7m of savings identified in the annual operational plan leaving a gap of £19m.”
Some of the overspend would be offset by savings coming in the last half of the financial year, Mr Garden added, seeing a ‘flattening’ of the projected overspend.
Mr Garden said one of the areas of greatest cost pressure was that of adult social care, a sector growing between 6 and 8% year on year, and with a current overspend of £3.9m.
He said: “The highest cost pressure comes from those under 65 with packages to support them to live independently in their own homes and we need to look at achieving consistency in how we meet these needs.
“We’re making progress, but it’s challenging.”
More than £3m overspend came on pay for medical and dental locums, prompting wider debate amount the board about employment sustainability.
Board member Adam Palmer said: “It came out recently that every school leaver in Scotland would have to go into the public sector to meet our needs. We need a complete redesign of learning in schools and colleges, there are simply not enough people to do what’s needed.”
NHSH chief executive Elaine Mead said: “It’s absolutely clear to us that a significant proportion of our cost is to do with the sustainability of our current models of care and while we are examining ways of changing those models, costs rising exponentially, and increasingly difficult to recruit staff.”
She said NHSH, the Scottish Government and accountancy firm KPMG were all looking at the financial implications of adult social care.
Labour’s shadow health minister David Stewart said: “Overspend at NHS Highland is not a new thing and it’s about time the Scottish Government looked at the underlying factors and attempted to solve problems such as the need for locums and pressure from adult social care.
“You can’t escape the fact that the government needs to find more resources for our over-stretched health service or queues for hospital treatment will only grow longer and hard-working staff will be under more and more pressure.
He added: “What concerns patients and staff is what is going to be cut next, to be within budget? It is a very worrying situation.”