Cost of agency nurses strains health bud­get

The Oban Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Kathie Grif­fiths kgrif­[email protected]­

Costs of agency nurses at Oban hospi­tal and a higher than ex­pected de­mand for so­cial care ser­vices con­tin­ues to chal­lenge over­spend­ing by health bosses.

Even though the lat­est over­spend fig­ure by the end of the year is fore­cast to be £4m in­stead of a pre­vi­ously pre­dicted £4.6m, chal­lenges to cut costs and make faster sav­ings are on­go­ing.

A spokesper­son for Ar­gyll and Bute’s Health and So­cial Care Part­ner­ship said it was ‘a sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ment’, but with a num­ber of fac­tors caus­ing the over­spend, it was still work­ing to­wards re­duc­ing the amount even more.

The fi­nan­cial po­si­tion was re­ported to mem­bers of the In­te­gra­tion Joint Board last week. At a meet­ing on Septem­ber 26, the board was told the fore­cast year end over­spend was £4.6m.

The HSCP needed to save £10.6m in 2018/19. So far it has saved £3.364m with an­other £7.236m to be achieved.

A HSCP spokesman said: ‘We recog­nise the fi­nan­cial po­si­tion is ex­tremely chal­leng­ing and we are work­ing to­wards re­duc­ing the over­spend fur­ther.’

Var­i­ous risks and pres­sures con­tribut­ing to the over­spend fore­cast were listed in a bud­get mon­i­tor­ing re­port to the IJB meet­ing. The main ones high­lighted in­cluded on­go­ing use of agency nurses in Oban and Lochgilp­head hospi­tals, locum GP wages on Mull, fund­ing locum psy­chi­a­trists and ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a higher than ex­pected de­mand for so­cial work sup­ported ser­vices.

Coun­cil­lor Kieron Green, vice-chair­man of the IJB and Ar­gyll and Bute’s pol­icy lead for health and so­cial care, said: ‘We will con­tinue to plan to de­liver ser­vices which best meet the needs of our com­mu­ni­ties and give peo­ple ac­cess to high-qual­ity pa­tient­cen­tred care. How­ever, when de­sign­ing fu­ture ser­vice pro­vi­sion we must also con­sider the fund­ing given to us, along with work­force avail­abil­ity and na­tional tar­gets and pri­or­i­ties.’

Ad­dress­ing two of the main over­spend­ing fac­tors, he added: ‘Oban has a par­tic­u­lar prob­lem with re­cruit­ment in that the avail­abil­ity of hous­ing here is a bar­rier for many peo­ple look­ing to work in the area. We recog­nise that. Lo­cal hous­ing as­so­ci­a­tions are plan­ning to de­liver a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of houses but it’s still go­ing to be an is­sue for the forsee­able fu­ture.’

As far as ex­tra de­mands on health and so­cial care, he said a bad win­ter had es­ca­lated peo­ple’s needs for ser­vices.

At last week’s meet­ing, the leader of Ar­gyll and Bute Coun­cil, Coun­cil­lor Aileen Mor­ton, also called for bet­ter com­mu­ni­ca­tion on the fi­nances of the HSCP after the IJB was asked to ac­cept fund­ing of­fers from the coun­cil and NHS High­land which it had al­ready agreed to take on by the end of Septem­ber.

Coun­cil­lor Mor­ton said she felt ‘frus­trated’ as a rel­a­tively new board mem­ber.

‘In the scheme of in­te­gra­tion, it says the chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer will pro­vide re­ports on a monthly ba­sis with de­tails of any ac­tions re­quired. My frus­tra­tion is that as a rel­a­tively new board mem­ber, I can’t grasp where the scale of risk sits in terms of red, am­ber, green,’ she said.

‘I speak from a gen­uine sense of frus­tra­tion that I don’t have a grasp on it and, as a board, we need to be clear on how this is pro­gress­ing.’

‘The avail­abil­ity of hous­ing here is a bar­rier for many peo­ple look­ing to work in the area’

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