HEALTH chiefs have been warned of a projected overspend of £2.8 million on services in Argyll and Bute  – just three months into the new financial year.

The figure, most of which is down to spending on social work, is reported in a financial statement produced by Judy Orr, the new head of finance and transformation at the Argyll and Bute Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP).

The report was considered by the HSCP’s integration joint board (IJB) at a meeting on Wednesday, August 7.

The forecast overspend represents an improvement on the position this time last year, when the partnership faced a projected year-end overspend of £4.4m.

But by the end of the 2018-19 financial year in April, that figure had reached £6.6m – some of which was only made up for by NHS Highland’s brokerage from the Scottish Government.

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The total projected overspend for social work services in 2019-20 is £2.306m, a figure which Ms Orr has called “a very disappointing position”.

She said: “It should be noted that this is the position at the end of month three, which is still fairly early in the year, and is based on our assessment of the trends at this time, and reflecting actions already well underway.

“Over the remaining nine months of the year, concerted efforts will be made in order to deliver an outturn which is considerably closer to a balanced budget.

“Updated forecasts will be prepared each month so that progress can be tracked.

“The biggest single area of social work overspend is on learning disability, where there has been a failure to deliver anticipated savings so far, along with higher than budgeted demand.

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“This links closely with the year to date position. Again both are affected by the same factors.

“The next two areas of forecast overspend are physical disability and older people.”

An additional £500,000 is forecast to be overspent on the provision of health services.

Ms Orr said: “The overspend is mainly linked to savings not being achieved in addition to increased costs for oncology drugs, pharmacy costs, patient referrals, and agency/locum staff.

“The overspend has been offset to an extent by vacancy savings and also slippage on budget reserves which includes one-off in year allocations.

“It is expected that this overspend should be containable through on-going grip and control of expenditure during the remainder of the financial year, so no new savings are proposed in the recovery plan for health.”

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The document also repeats the danger of failing to agree a service level agreement (SLA) with NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGGC), which could cost the HSCP millions.

As well as £1.2m of charges which were in dispute during 2018/19, a further fee of £654,000 was imposed for ‘exceptional services’ outwith the scope of the SLA.

Ms Orr added: “The most significant risk affecting the forecast outturn position for health is the SLA for Greater Glasgow and Clyde.

“At the last IJB a decision was made to reject the increase and the forecast outturn reflects this position.

“If this position is not accepted by Greater Glasgow and Clyde then there is a risk that the outturn overspend could increase by up to £2m.”

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Ms Orr left Argyll and Bute Council after nine years as head of customer and support services to become the HSCP’s new head of finance and transformation in June.

Kirsty Flanagan, the council’s head of strategic finance, had been filling the post on an interim basis.