Swansea Bay Health Board Breaks Even for First Time in Seven Years in “Massive Achievement”
Swansea Bay University Health Board has effectively broken even for the first time in seven years in what was described as a “massive achievement”.
The accounts for 2022-23 showed net expenditure of £1.16bn, which takes into account income of £305m. It actually ended up underspending by £1.83m – or 0.12% of its budget.
The health board’s total expenditure was £1.46bn – this figure doesn’t factor in the £305m income – with the bulk of it going on hospital and community health services (£981m), expenditure on other health care providers (£282m), and primary care services such as dentists, pharmacists and GPs (£202m).
The accounts have been examined by Audit Wales and will now be sent to the Welsh Government.
Speaking at a health board meeting chairwoman Emma Woollett said: “The really important fact is that we have effectively broken even which is a massive achievement for this organisation, particularly given Covid.”
However it is also required to ensure it doesn’t spend more than the funding allotted to it over a three-year period and on this three-year measure it has overspent by £46m, or 1.4% of its funding.
The health board is a vast organisation employing just over 12,800 staff including around 3,900 nurses and midwives and 1,300 medical and dental staff. It operates Morriston, Singleton, and Neath Port Talbot hospitals, Gorseinon community hospital, and commissions services from 49 GP practices, 72 dental practices, 92 pharmacies, and 31 opticians.
The accounts showed there were also 395 agency staff, costing just over £40m. Health board vice-chairman Steve Spill said agency staff cost on average £102,000 per head compared to £55,000 per head for non-agency employees.
Although that doesn’t mean agency staff earn £102,000, because the agencies they are signed up with would take a share, Mr Spill pointed out that significant savings would be made if agency staff were replaced by regular staff.
Darren Griffiths, the health board’s director of finance, said nursing recruitment was “very successful” of late and that a further 130 nurses were due to take up positions in September having graduated this summer.
The accounts also showed clinical negligence claim costs, including legal fees, of £31m. The vast majority of this sum was covered by a Wales-wide scheme called the Welsh Risk Pool.
The health board’s performance is set against ministerial priorities among other things. There were improvements in 2022-23 in six out of 10 priorities, such as a reduction in the number of patients waiting more than 36 weeks for treatment, and a deterioration in four including a rise in the number of patients starting cancer treatment within 62 days of cancer being suspected.
Further improvements in planned care are expected this financial year following the opening of three planned care surgical wards at Neath Port Talbot Hospital last month. A business case for three additional wards at Singleton Hospital is also being developed.
There were just over 328,000 days of sickness absence in 2022-23, fewer than the previous year. This worked out at 17 days per employee although more than a quarter of staff didn’t have any sick leave at all.
The highest paid member of staff – a medic – earned £294,062 in 2022-23 and there was one exit package of £58,000. Audit Wales also noted a £15,000 termination payment which wasn’t approved by the relevant committee. Auditors said they were told it was because an urgent decision was needed and that the £15,000 payment had been approved by the director of workforce following consultation with the human resources team and legal advice.
In a foreword to one of the reports outlined at the board meeting chief executive Mark Hackett thanked staff for their continued commitment. “Our services have remained busy and our teams are working hard to care for those who need us although we recognise that sometimes this is not as quickly or as soon as we would like it to be,” he said.
By BBC LDRS
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