Published: 05/02/2017 08:00 - Updated: 03/02/2017 10:35

Health staff on the move as £100m savings sought

Written byVal Sweeney

NHS Highland chairman David Alston says a sense of urgency is needed.
NHS Highland chairman David Alston says a sense of urgency is needed.

CASH-strapped NHS Highland is giving up one of its main offices in Inverness as it seeks to cut £100 million from its budget in the next three years.

Staff based at the John Dewar Building in the city’s retail and business park are being relocated in a move which will save an estimated £470,000 a year.

It follows a review of office requirements at the health authority’s three main administration buildings which also include Assynt House in Beechwood Park and Larch House in Stoneyfield Business Park.

An NHS spokesman said through different working practices and better design of IT and office layouts, it was possible to reduce the number of required buildings to two and would also coincide with the natural contract break for the lease of the John Dewar building. "This is the first key action in relation to reviewing how we use our premises and how we can work differently in delivering a modern health service," he said.

Assynt House, which is owned by the health authority, is being refitted to accommodate more staff while Larch House, which is leased, is also being redesigned.

The stark financial position facing NHS Highland was outlined by finance director Nick Kenton at a board meeting in Inverness on Tuesday.

This year the board had to find savings of £26 million. Next year, this will rise to £50 million before rocketing to £100 million by 2020.

"The projections for next year are a continuing squeeze on public sector finances," Mr Kenton said.

"Some things could change but the figures we have are definitely in the right ballpark.

"If we do lose £100 million we still have £700 million to spend so we have to see that as an opportunity."

It has not yet been decided where the axe will fall but employee director Adam Palmer pledged there was no risk of mass redundancies.

"In these times of change the assurance we need to give is that it is not about hundreds of people, or indeed any people, losing jobs and being required to leave the organisation," he said.

"What will be happening is change in terms of roles, training, timings and locations.

"There will be a whole range of changes which may affect staff going forward but it is not about deleting a large number of jobs.

"We won’t achieve change without communication and involvement of staff."

Board chairman David Alston said a emergency planning was needed to balance the books this year, along with creating a long term plan.

"This is a clear message that this is not sustainable," he said.

"We need to approach budgets in a totally different way.

"We need a sense of urgency to get through this year but we also need to make plans for the future."

The reduced use of expensive agency staff was mooted as a way to save money but chief executive Elaine Mead said they were crucial for rural areas.

"If we don’t have a doctor at a rural hospital for whatever reason we have to put in a locum, which is excruciatingly costly," she said.

"It is costing us more than we have available to spend but we have to provide doctors. Even if we had as much money as we need we would still struggle to recruit for some of these posts."

Work was also under way to increase community care as a way of reducing the number of elderly people taking up hospital beds unnecessarily.

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