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Health / NHS chief issues warning over financial impact of Covid-19, Brexit and winter

NHS Shetland chief executive Michael Dickson. Photo: Chris Cope/Shetland News

THE CHIEF executive of NHS Shetland has warned that the challenge on the health board’s finances this coming year “cannot be underestimated” – with Covid-19, Brexit and the winter all causing concern.

Michael Dickson told a meeting of the health board on Tuesday that leaving the European Union could bring a detrimental impact to the NHS.

“It’s going to be a challenging target,” he said of the financial outlook for the year ahead.

“I think it’s going to be incredibly difficult.”

A paper presented to Tuesday’s meeting on the budget for 2020/21 showed there is a projected £2 million funding gap, with £1 million of this brought forward from the previous year.

There will be around £67 million in income over the year but expected total expenditure sits at £69 million.

The figures do not take into account the response to Covid-19, with the Scottish Government yet to allocate funding to cover additional costs to health boards.

NHS Shetland finance director Colin Marsland said that the exact cost impact of Brexit is still unknown.

But Dickson said the mix this year of Covid-19, the winter and Brexit is a worry for the health board’s finances.

He added that it remains “unclear” what funding will come to NHS Shetland from the Scottish Government regarding the cost of responding to coronavirus.

A recent freedom of information request showed that up until the end of July there had been around £1.785 million in additional cost to the health board when it came to Covid-19.

This included reconfiguring some parts of the Gilbert Bain Hospital to cater for Covid-19 patients.

A report presented to board members showed that expenditure in the first three months of the financial year was offset by £500,000 in patient travel which did not occur.

The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic also affected the operating activity income due to lockdown impacting on the number of non-Shetland residents receiving treatment as tourism ceased and also impacted on the laundry income generated from local hotels.

NHS Shetland chairman Gary Robinson opened the meeting by highlighting that a “tremendous amount of work” has gone into preparing for the winter months with regards to Covid-19.

He also thanked health staff as well as the Shetland community for the response to the initial outbreak.