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More concern health board won’t break even at year end

Lerwick's Gilbert Bain Hospital.
Lerwick's Gilbert Bain Hospital.

THE CHIEF officer of Shetland’s health and social care partnership Simon Bokor-Ingram “strongly believes” that NHS Shetland will not break even this year for the first time.

Members of the integration joint board heard on Wednesday that the partnership faces a projected deficit of £4.86 million this financial year.

Around £4.3 million of that is overspend on the NHS Shetland part of the budget, while the rest is from the Shetland Islands Council arm.

NHS Shetland already warned last month that it may have to seek additional funding from the Scottish Government to tackle its own overspend.

IJB members were warned on Wednesday that more savings will need to found in the future if this is the case.

Bokor-Ingram told the meeting that a reliance on recruiting expensive temporary locum staff to fill posts is costing the partnership dearly, with a projected overspend in primary care this year of £1.1 million.

The director of community health and social care at NHS Shetland said he thought it is likely the health board will not balance its books.

“I strongly believe this will be the first year that we [NHS Shetland] have not been able to break even,” Bokor-Ingram said.

The integration joint board, which launched in Shetland in 2015, is a separate legal entity and is expected to balance the books thanks to one-off payments from its two partners.

Chief finance officer Karl Williamson conceded that “every year things get tighter and tighter”.

Councillor Allison Duncan stressed again that a case should be made to the Scottish Government for help with the cost of locums, travel and accommodation.

NHS Shetland needs to find over £2 million of savings in 2018/19, but so far none has been realised.

Bokor-Ingram also warned members that while Shetland has been able to find locum cover for posts in the past, this may not always be the case in the future as jobs elsewhere in the UK and abroad may be more “enticing” for staff.