Fife’s Health and Social Care Partnership expects to be £4.1 million in the red by the end of the financial year in March.  

At a meeting on Friday it was decided that they'll use cash reserves to cover the gap. 

The only issue is that the move will leave the pot almost empty with approximately £5m in the bank, significantly less than the three per cent policy minimum.

“We’re obviously concerned about the reserves position – and quite rightly,” Alistair Grant, chair of the finance, performance and scrutiny committee said.  “Initially the board had a very comfortable position with reserves.

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"That has changed beyond all recognition and that needs to be accepted. It is quite a challenging position.”  The partnership is a joint Fife Council and NHS Fife group responsible for the management and development of health and social care services.

Central Fife Times: A major area of overspend has been locums – or temporary staff –  at NHS-run GPs.A major area of overspend has been locums – or temporary staff –  at NHS-run GPs. (Image: Newsquest)

The annual budget is funded jointly by both authorities and it is governed by the Integration Joint Board (IJB).

Arlene Wood, chair of the IJB, added: “I think it’s positive that we are going to have a balanced budget this year, but need to really recognise how that’s been done.” 

Looking ahead, she warned that they “cannot be complacent in any way” about the upcoming 2024-25 budget. 

“We don’t know at this moment what our funding will be. However, we all probably know what’s coming.

"I think this [use of funds] has stored up significant problems for us over the next year with little to no reserves,” she said. 

“The reserves will be under one per cent based on current information. What we do this year impacts next year.

"And these transformation programmes are going to be absolutely critical.” 

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Like other boards and governing bodies across the UK, the IJB is under a lot of pressure. 

Hospital and long term care, GP prescribing, family health services, older people residential and day care, homecare and adult placements are all areas that have contributed to the budget deficit. 

“The main variance is due to the increased cost of prescribing, the budget was set on a cost per item of £10.05, and the current price is projected at £10.74,” Audrey Valente, the IJB’s chief finance officer, explained in her report.

“The overspend on prescribing (at November) is projected at £6m, which reflects the increased price and also increased volume.” 

Another major area of overspend has been locums – or temporary staff –  at NHS-run GPs.

Ms Valente said the primary medical services budget was overspent by £700,000.  Some areas are underspent, which has helped to partially offset deficits elsewhere.

If, for any reason, the IJB can’t find a way to fill its budget gap, NHS Fife and Fife Council will be on the hook to help out.