Gwent still needs to plug £3million health budget gap
GWENT health bosses are trying to close a million gap of £3 million by the end of March in order to break even, as demanded by the Welsh Government.
The gap - based on figures for Aneurin Bevan Health Board for the end of December - is smaller than had been feared, helped in part by an injection of several millions of pounds of Welsh Government NHS contingency fund money late last year.
But board chiefs will be unable to rest easy until the end of March, given the higher than expected demand on some services, particularly 'front door' emergencies, during the winter.
The burden of meeting demands for Continuing Healthcare (CHC) packages, care provided in the homes of patients with often complex needs, continues to be heavy in Gwent, though the area is not alone in this.
CHC costs were an extra £250,000 in Gwent in December alone, and for the past few years this particular budget has been overspent often by several millions of pounds in a financial year.
The volatile nature of CHC costs is not helped either by ongoing claims from cases that are often several years old.
Other risks include costs relating to specialist services charged to the board by the Welsh Health Specialist Services Committee, which is responsible for funding treatment not available in Wales.
Another cause for concern as the financial year draws to a close, is that additional beds that needed to be opened during the winter to deal with emergency demand, have resulted in higher than anticipated medical and nursing agency costs, and more overtime.
There have been bonuses however, to offset some overspends, with medicines management a key example.
This is on course to deliver several millions of pounds in savings this year, and £250,000 held in reserve for paying for blood-thinning drug dabigatran has now been released toward plugging the general funding gap, because its use has not been as high as predicted.