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Health / NHS overspending by £73k a week on locum and agency staff

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HIRING locum and agency staff is causing NHS Shetland to overspend by around £70,000 per week, it has been revealed.

NHS Shetland is forecasting being overspent at the end of the 2022/23 financial year by £3.8 million, and the key factor is the cost of staffing.

The health board needs to take in temporary locum staff to maintain safe staffing in essential services, but they come at a greater cost.

At month nine of the financial year the actual spend on locum and agency staff was £6.3 million.

However, staff vacancies and other funding meant the net cost to the health board at month nine was £2.5 million.

Adding in travel and accommodation, and the total locum cost is responsible for £3 million of the board’s current over spend, or around 86 per cent.

Speaking at a meeting of the NHS Shetland board on Tuesday, finance director Colin Marsland said there remains a need to sustainably staff the organisation.

He said if the number of band seven NHS staff members was hypothetically reduced to pay for the temporary posts, it would mean losing 55 whole-time equivalents.

“Sustainable workforce is key to both financial viability but also ensuring the services we give to patients are safe and secure in the longer term,” Marsland said.

He also told board members that the Scottish Government is not planning to remove the funding it gave the health board for a national insurance increase, resulting in more than £250,000 going towards the deficit.

The NHS Shetland contingency fund will also be removed, which will free up £357,000.

The contingency fund was established to aid in-year financial management, but the meeting heard that the value was “nowhere near” what was needed to cover the cost pressures in question.

Marsland said as far as he knew there are no other health boards in Scotland which have contingency reserves.

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