Health chief warns Shetland’s challenges with Covid-19, winter and Brexit ‘cannot be understated’

Shetland’s health chief has warned that delivering services will be “incredibly difficult” while contending with three major challenges.

Michael Dickson, who is NHS Shetland’s chief executive, raised serious concerns about the combined impact of Covid-19, winter and Brexit, during today’s board meeting.

Coming into the position where we have Covid-19 winter and detrimental impacts of leaving the EU, in terms of sustaining our services,  the challenges cannot be underestimated.

“Even with the hard work and commitment of all the staff at NHS Shetland it’s going to be a challenging target – add those three things and I think it’s going to be incredibly  difficult.”

Mr Dickson made his comments following the presentation of two financial reports, which highlighted the pressures brought by Covid-19 so far.

Director of finance Colin Marsland’s summary for the three months up to June revealed a £1.6m overspend, which included costs associated with Covid-19.

Mr Marsland said the main reason for the overspend was due to the Scottish government having not allocated any funding to NHS boards to deal with Covid-19.

“The majority of that overspend is due to Covid-19 expenditure incurred by the board in meeting its localisation plan and making sure that our Covid-19 response was appropriate,” he added.

A separate report on next year’s £67.2m budget warned of a £2m funding gap for 2020-21 – without accounting for Covid-19.

The savings identified relate to £1m from last year and £1m of new savings.

Over the next five years, Mr Marsland said savings of £7.3m had been identified, which is in line with Scottish government expectations.

Colin Campbell, a non-executive director,  questioned the impact of the “B word – Brexit” on medicine costs.

Mr Marsland said Brexit was currently an “unknown on quite a lot of costs, including prescribing”.

Kathleen Carolan director of nursing and acute services said Brexit had been identified by colleagues at NHS National Services Scotland as a risk.

“We are expecting more detail on how they intend to manage winter with Brexit looming,” she added.

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