NHS Fife: Health chiefs warn communication is "critical" as public "will see changes" amid growing financial pressures
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Members of the region’s NHS board heard on Tuesday that the health board is being asked what changes it can make to balance its budget and break even in 2024/25, with acting chairman Alistair Morris saying good communication is going to be “critical” because the public “will see changes”.
The full implications of those changes aren’t yet known or understood, but Mr Morris said that NHS Fife can no longer work “around the edges” to make ends meet.
“My take of where we are just now is that we need to reduce costs across the whole of NHS Scotland. I think [we’re facing] exceptional levels of cost reduction that’s never been faced before,” Mr Morris explained to a meeting of the board on Tuesday.
“I think we’re past the stages of being able to tinker around the edges to achieve financial performance outcomes – it has to be a lot more of a seismic or major change. And that’s territory we’ve not been in before.”
According to Mr Morris, the Scottish Government is asking NHS Fife what needs to change in order to balance the budget. They’re looking at changes to staff numbers, goods and services provided by the NHS, and even what medicines are being prescribed.
“It’s going to be critical that we have good communication with the public because they will see changes,” he said.
In late December, the Scottish Government announced their draft budget, which included Holyrood’s pay package for Scottish health boards. If approved, NHS Fife is earmarked to receive approximately £829 million for the upcoming year – approximately a 4.5 per cent increase from last year.
However, despite the better part of £1 billion from the government, Mr Morris maintained that the NHS is facing unprecedented pressure.
The Kingdom’s health board is already under pressure. It’s projecting a £23 million shortfall this financial year, and Mr Morris said the government won’t be giving them any additional cash – beyond inflation – for 2024-25.
“Pressures are going to increase significantly beyond what we’ve already seen this year,” Mr Morris said. “It’s clear there are no additional funds available for capital or revenue so we must operate within the not-inconsiderable funds we have been awarded.”
The new 2024-25 budget will be about “creating a new framework for reform and transformation,” according to chief executive Carol Potter.
Maxine Michie, deputy director of finance, added: “We’ve been working with finance colleagues at the Scottish Government. They’re advising our challenges are not dissimilar to other boards across the country. No one has a silver bullet [solution], but there’s a lot of work going on.”
NHS Fife will submit a proposed draft budget to the Scottish Government at the end of this week. After some back and forth dialogue with Holyrood, the final NHS Fife budget will be submitted for government approval by March 11.
Details on the upcoming budget draft are not yet available for public viewing and scrutiny.