NHS Shetland will have to find more than £1million next year to cover a shortfall in its budget, it emerged this week.
Information released by the Scottish Labour party under freedom of information legislation shows that NHS Shetland expected a four per cent increase in its funding this year but only got 3.2 per cent. This impact will be felt in future years as well, according to NHS Shetland finance director Nick Kenton.
Although the health service generally has an underlying deficit because it spends more than its income, Shetland NHS board is forecasting a break-even by April 2009.
Particular financial pressures this year came in expenditure on temporary clinical staff (locums) and in heating and lighting bills, but Mr Kenton said the board was confident it could manage this by making savings in other areas.
Next year’s predicted break-even is thanks in part to a total of nearly £1m carried forward from the previous year.
However next year, from April 2009, there will be no such cushion and Mr Kenton said “efficiency measures” would have to be considered. He said: “Our aim will be to continue to deliver a high level of services but more efficiently. This means we will have to look at the way we deliver services to make them as cost effective as possible while avoiding any adverse impact on patients.”
He said it was “too early to say” exactly how savings could be made but pledged that essential services would not be cut back.
Underlying financial balance did not have to be restored in a single year, he said, although he admitted every year it got more difficult.
One efficiency saving being considered is the use of national contracts to buy supplies, using the NHS buying power instead of one-off purchasing in all areas from medical supplies to stationery.
NHS Shetland is expected to make savings of £700,000 in the next two years to meet government targets, he said.
The health board generally receives less government funding than it expects because the area is considered well-funded compared to deprived areas.
The savings will be challenging because new waiting times of 18 weeks for all patients from first visit to specialist appointment and 62 days for cancer patients are just being implemented.
Highlands and Islands MSP Rhoda Grant called for the Scottish government to provide extra resources and said the health board being forced to review services was “totally unacceptable”.