Health savings total $4m

AN EFFICIENCY drive has so far saved the Western NSW Local Health District (LHD) $4 million.

Scaling back the use of locums and providing outreach services through telehealth are some of the ways it is meeting a NSW government directive.

The government has told LHDs across the state to find a total of $2.2 billion in efficiency savings across four years.

This week NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner reiterated that the money would be reinvested in frontline services.

"This money will be staying within the NSW health system and is not a cut," she said.

Her comments followed a media report of the state health budget being slashed and unionist fears for services.

It claimed cuts across the state included $25.9 million for the Western NSW LHD.

But Mrs Skinner said the state's health budget had increased this year by 5.4 per cent to a record $17.3 billion.

"This, along with better use of existing health resources through efficiency savings, will be used to provide care for an anticipated 50,000 extra emergency patients, 30,000 extra overnight hospital patients and 2,000 extra elective surgeries," she said.

Western NSW LHD director of finance Geoffrey Hanson revealed that it had secured a bigger budget.

"The Western NSW LHD budget has not been cut this year, in fact it has received an average four per cent growth funding in 2012/2013," he said.

It had risen by $21.5 million to $716.8 million.

Mr Hanson also revealed the efforts and challenges faced in saving money.

"We are working on a number of initiatives that improve efficiency and maintain high quality services within allocated budgets and this will continue, although the increases to high-end technology is challenging to keep up with," he said.

The initiatives include collaboration with partners such as GP services, and standardising of processes and practices to reduce duplication.

The Western NSW LHD is also reviewing models of care including diagnostic testing, and goods and services expenses, including fleet costs.

"We are reducing the reliance on locum medical and nursing staff in facilities including Dubbo," Mr Hanson said.

"One strategy is to recruit nurse practitioners in Parkes, Forbes, Walgett and Lightning Ridge.

"In Orange, we have recently recruited a number of staff specialists to ease the reliance on external imaging services."

Mr Hanson said efficiency savings of $4 million in the Western NSW LHD would be directed back to frontline services.

He also promised continued transparency "in how we operate and where resources are allocated".

"We will continue to work with our clinicians to ensure the right solutions are implemented in our services and that we continue to provide the best possible care for our patients," Mr Hanson said.

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