Fears of cuts to nursing numbers as NHS reveals overspend of £1.6m

The NHS faces spending �20m to target waiting list problems
The NHS faces spending �20m to target waiting list problems
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NHS Lothian has revealed it overspent its budget by £1.6 million in the first three months of the financial year, leading to fears that more jobs could be cut.

The NHS Lothian board has been told that £1.2m more than expected was spent operationally since April while efficiency saving targets were missed by £400,000.

The overspend has raised concerns that nursing posts could be cut.

The budget gap has emerged as the health board pushes ahead with its plan to invest £20m to treat patients who have been languishing on waiting lists, despite hoping to make efficiency and productivity savings of £37m in the current financial year.

Susan Goldsmith, the health board’s director of finance, said in a report that the failure to hit financial targets had been the result of increased prices of medical and clinical supplies, equipment costs and larger than expected expenditure on building maintenance.

She said the familiar issue of pressure on core capacity remained the “key driver” of the operational financial position, with winter wards having to remain open for longer to cope with activity levels.

Sarah Boyack, Labour Lothians MSP, said she was concerned that health bosses had targeted an additional £1.5m of savings in the nursing budget.

“While the overall overspend is relatively small in relation to the total budget, the report exposes the financial pressures being faced by the health board,” she said.

“In the last 18 months, over 250 nursing posts have been lost. This will have inevitably had an impact on patient care and I am deeply concerned about further job cuts.”

The health board’s capital programme for the full financial year is currently predicted to cost £60m, which is £5.7m over budget. Funding for some projects yet to be approved may have to be delayed if the board is to balance its books by March.

The latest balance sheet looks healthier than expected as fewer patients than predicted opted to take up operations in private hospitals. Since April, NHS Lothian has spent £3m sending patients to private hospitals and Golden Jubilee NHS hospital in Clydebank, while a further £2m has been spent to increase internal capacity.

Bosses, however, had expected to have spent an extra £1m by this point.

NHS Lothian hopes that a new external provider office, which will see patients contacted directly by the private sector and offered incentives such as free travel to hospitals and hotel accommodation, will see the number of patients accepting offers rise.

Carol Potter, associate director of finance for NHS Lothian, said: “At the end of quarter one we have an overspend of 0.1 per cent, which is not unusual for this time of year.

“We are reviewing the reasons behind this overspend and are still on target to break even at the end of the year.”