Angus continues to be the sick man of Scotland with a prescribing crisis costing the area millions of pounds.
Health bosses have revealed the problem may get worse before it gets better.
A year after the release of figures which put the area at the top of Scotland’s cost per head league for prescribing, Angus Health and Social Care Integration Joint Board members will learn on Wednesday prescribing is forecast to hit a £2.5 million overspend this year – more than 10% of the budget figure of £21m.
Officials have also repeated their warning that other areas of service delivery are continuing to suffer the financial side effects of the prescribing problem.
An increasing number of people living longer on multiple medications and the uptake of newer, more expensive products were previously blamed as contributory factors.
Angus IJB chief officer Vicky Irons has said a number of factors have made the latest Angus projection “markedly weaker” than previously forecast.
Ms Irons highlights steps which have been taken in the past year to tackle the issue and expresses confidence that the evolving infrastructure, “strong GP engagement and clinical ownership of prescribing locally will deliver a sustainable prescribing framework for the future”.
But she adds: “It is important to continue to note that Angus remains a significant outlier, both in Tayside and Scotland, regarding prescribing costs per weighted population.
“At the end of 2016/17, average Angus costs per weighted population were c11% above the national average.
“However the relative postion in Angus has continued to deteriorate compared with other parts of Scotland and over the July – September 2017 period the Angus cost per weighted population increased to be 13% above the national average. “
The chief officer adds: “The continued variance from the national average reflects the challenges of translating a comprehensive prescribing action plan into sustainable financial improvement over a short period.
“However, a number of focussed initiatives have started to deliver savings in 2017/18….but while Angus remains a relatively high cost prescribing area, this will continue to influence some of the budgetary decisions Angus IJB require to make.”
North East region Scottish Conservative MSP Liam Kerr said: “At a time when we are set to lose the only acute admission mental health beds in Angus, I would like to know why there is such a high proportion of associated drug costs.
“There must be a reason why the county is costing 11% more than the national prescribing average.
“It is clear that NHS Tayside and the integrated joint board are having to make budget decisions based on this. The money has to come from somewhere.
“Local GPs and other prescribers have been told to pull back on prescribing certain drugs and remedies which can be bought over the counter.
“If this isn’t able to get Angus in line with the rest of Tayside and Scotland, there must be a reason why.”