HEALTH chiefs in Swansea Bay are aiming to break even financially for the first time since 2016, but rising agency costs are one of the factors which won’t make it easy.

While Swansea Bay University Health Board was nearly £9.9m in the red in 2018-19, this was significantly down on the £39m and £32m overspends in the previous two years.

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Finance chiefs said the health board, which covers Swansea and Neath Port Talbot, was committed to balancing the books by the current financial year.
But director of finance, Lynne Hamilton, said: “This will be extremely challenging to deliver, requiring over £27m of savings, cost management and mitigating actions to be achieved.”

The 2018-19 accounts show that staff costs rose by just under £30m to £657m, mainly due to a pay award.

Another contributing factor for staff wages was a £5m increase in agency costs, particularly for nurses, midwives and medical consultants.

Difficulties recruiting staff and the use of agency workers to maintain safe levels of care are not new and in some areas, like locum registrars, the agency spend at the health board went down.

Ms Hamilton said rotas were being made more efficient to help the situation.  She added: “The workforce constraints are a national issue and there is no immediate fix.  “The health board is therefore ensuring that we are considering alternative workforce models to support service delivery.”

Four of Wales’ health boards overspent in 2018-19 but Minister for Health and Social Services, Vaughan Gething, said that the picture overall had improved compared to the previous year.

Nearly £8.4bn of Wales £18.4bn budget will go on health and social services this financial year – a rise of 5% from 2018-19.

Referring to health boards, Mr Gething said this week: “I am expecting a further improvement in financial positions to be reported at the end of this financial year.”

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