hospitals have to tighten belts even further

the cost of paying for bank and locum nursing and medical staff has pushed Fife’s hospital finances even further into the red.

And concerns about the level of overspend in the first four months of this financial year have been expressed by health bosses.

A financial report of NHS Fife’s Operational Division for the period up to July 31 showed an overspend of almost £1.25 million, with the main areas responsible including planned care and surgery – £723,000; emergency care and medicine £454,000 and ambulatory care £302,000.

Outlining the financial position of the division, Andrew McCreadie, assistant director of finance told the committee that nursing costs to cover things like sickness and vacancies was a major factor in all three of the directorates, with energy costs, particularly coming into the cold weather period, also a risk factor.

He said that efficiency savings of £5.4 million had been targeted, although delivery of these had fallen slightly short of what was expected by this time at £155,000, with some of this down to delays in implementing savings schemes.

“The division has been made aware since the start of the year that there is a requirement for all units to support the financial position by ensuring that they deliver a break even by the end of the year,” said Mr McCreadie.

He said meetings had taken place with all three clinical directors to discuss their financial recovery plans and how they were going and he was looking to see the financial benefits of these plans in the near future.

Gordon Birnie, medical director, explained that the use of bank and locum staff for nursing vacancies usually arose because of the need to fill short-term gaps.

Dave Stewart, operational division chairman, said: “This gives members of the public a fair insight into why we are looking at everything, everywhere to save some money because of the financial position we are in.

“We are in a difficult position there’s no question about that. We would normally start off with high overspends, but it is never usually this high.

“We will wait for the November report with baited breath to see if this position has turned around, and we hope for cheerier news.”