THE Health Department is facing an overspend of up to £20 million this year amid ‘immense strain’ on its budget, mainly due to the cost of locums and agency staff.
Health Minister Karen Wilson yesterday told the States Assembly her department was ‘working with Treasury colleagues’ to address its financial position and make improvements to services.
The Health and Community Services budget for 2023, according to the Government Plan, is around £250 million.
But Deputy Wilson said that it was facing significant pressures, explaining that the primary concern was the cost of employing agency and locum staff ‘which take up a large proportion of the healthcare budget’.
Treasury Minister Ian Gorst warned in February that the Health Department would have to live within its budget this year and not ask for more money, as it did at the end of 2022. This year’s Government Plan already includes an annual 2% increase in Health budgets to maintain service standards and meet the costs of healthcare inflation, with Deputy Gorst saying the department needed to prove to Islanders that it was achieving value for money.
Regarding her budget, Deputy Wilson said: ‘It’s under immense strain, but we are working with Treasury colleagues to try to secure the maximum amount of investment to address the service improvements that are needed.
‘Members will know that we have inherited a legacy position which we are trying to turn around and, as you will know, I have brought in a turnaround team, change team, to help us establish a programme of work that will actually drive some of the efficiency and the productivity through the system.’
She said the department had ‘stepped up’ its recruitment process and was also reviewing some of the ways it provided care.
‘But I have to say to Assembly Members I cannot underestimate the cost of what it takes to actually run a health system using locum and agency staff,’ she said, adding that they were ‘as valuable as mainstream staff’ but cost proportionately more.
St Brelade Deputy Moz Scott asked what the total forecast overspend was for this year.
Deputy Wilson replied: ‘Based on current assumptions, we’re forecasting a £19 to £20 million overspend. But, as I’ve said, we are working with Treasury colleagues to address that position and that’s all I can say at this moment in time.’