Health chiefs in Fife say they have managed to trim this year’s projected budget shortfall by around two thirds – although they still need to find £9.4 million from somewhere to plug the gap.
There were dire warnings in April after it emerged NHS Fife needed to find £30.8 million to fill a black hole in its 2016/17 budget, with a bed reduction in acute services as well as possible cuts to security staff, laundry, catering, consultants and nursing among the actions mooted to help meet the deficit.
However, members of the NHS Fife board have now been told that potential measures to address the situation have since been quantified at £19.7 million alongside “non-recurring financial flexibility” of £1.7 million – leaving a need to find as yet “unidentified” savings of £9.4 million.
The plan, which looks at the next three years, may also include an element of “financial brokerage” from the Scottish Government to help balance the books although any cash from loans would be repayable in future years.
The £9.4 million shortfall still represents a huge challenge in the current financial climate, but NHS Fife chief executive Paul Hawkins said the plan put forward should identify most of the savings needed without compromising patient safety or care.
Mr Hawkins said “The further development of integrated health and social care will help us get the best value from all our resources and make the most of the skills of our highly valued staff to offer outstanding quality of care, tailored to the needs of our patients.
“By working smarter together, exploiting new technology and reducing duplication and waste we can offer a sustainable model of care.
“I have fully discussed the 2016/17 revenue plan with the Scottish Government and we will be agreeing a combination of tailored support of additional skills and resources and an action plan that will return the board to financial balance over a three year period.”
Firm details of how the savings will be realised have not been divulged as yet, although around £7.7 million should be saved through efficiencies in various different departments.
A further £5 million will be saved through “service change proposals” which are expected to include the controversial plans to cut beds at Victoria Hospital – something that NHS Fife previously said would be supported by a “demonstrable and sustainable delivery of a 72-hour turnaround within community services”.
However, savings could also be made through a review of the out-of-hours service and, linked to that, the provision of minor injuries services.
The plan also envisages that £5 million could be saved through cost-effective prescribing of drugs, while national initiatives could recoup £2 million.
NHS Fife chairman Allan Burns described the current situation as a “tough gig”, but said the board was pleased with the significant progress that has been made.
He concluded: “Whilst we recognise there are ongoing challenges we are confident the direction of travel is the right one.
“We will continue to offer best value and to prioritise patient care of the highest quality for the people of Fife”.