Edinburgh health bosses contemplating £36m of cuts 'without understanding consequences' amid service failures

Health chiefs in the Capital have demanded council bosses cough up £1.5m to balance this year’s social care budget – but £36m of cuts are set to be made next year “without understanding the consequences”.

Wednesday, 5th February 2020, 6:00 am
Health bosses could have to cut 36m to services in next yer's budget

The Edinburgh Integration Joint Board (IJB), which provides health and social care services across the city, will not be able to balance its books this year without Edinburgh City Council plugging a £1.5m gap in the finances.

The picture next financial year looks even less promising, with £36m of cuts expected to be made, amid a warning that it could impact on front-line health and social care services in Edinburgh. The news comes as new data shows that there were 228 delayed discharges across Edinburgh and the Lothians in December, with 156 in Edinburgh alone. The Scottish Government target for delayed discharges, excluding complex cases, is 200 a month. NHS Lothian hospitals also only managed to see 80 per cent of A&E patients within four hours – against a Scottish Government target of 95 per cent.

In the Lothians, 11.5 per cent of beds are occupied by people who are fit to go home – more than one in 10. Nationally, the number of patients forced to stay in hospital when they are medically well enough to leave has risen by 12 per cent in a year. A census across all Scottish hospitals carried out in December revealed 1,379 people had their discharge delayed, including 400 who had been waiting six weeks or more to leave.

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Politicians are calling for the Scottish Government to commit more funding towards healthcare and local authorities when it sets its budget tomorrow.

Conservative Lothians MSP, Miles Briggs, said: “NHS Lothian is one of the most under-pressure health boards in Scotland and cuts of £36 million for the provision of health and social care will only make the task of improving performance harder.

“People are now waiting longer than ever to be treated if they have to go to A&E and waiting times for operations have become unbearably long. More than one in 10 beds in NHS Lothian are being taken by someone who is medically fit to leave hospital which isn’t good for that person or for the capacity of hospitals in Lothian.”

Labour Lothians MSP Sarah Boyack added: “The Scottish Government should be ashamed of the shambolic handling of NHS Lothian’s funding and must find a better way to deal with this ongoing crisis.”

The chairman of the IJB, Angus McCann, will write to the city council to ask that the authority plugs a £1.5m gap in this year’s budget – with NHS Lothian already agreeing to put forward £500,000.

A council spokesperson said: “We’re committed to working with our partners in the Edinburgh Integration Joint Board and Lothian Health Board as part of our work to deliver balanced sustainable budgets.”

Board members also blasted the £36m of cuts that are expected to be made next year – with chief finance officer Moira Pringle labelling the situation a “significant financial challenge”.

Mike Ash admitted that failing to set a balanced budget for a second year in a row, would mean that “the people out there just won’t believe that we are taking it seriously”.

He added: “The reality is that we can put a figure down on what we aspire to spend but we cannot control that.”

Conservative Cllr Phil Doggart said: “We do need to understand the implications of any shortfall in budget and where that impacts on service provision.

“We have got a communications individual coming on board and their first job will be to explain why services cannot be provided because of a financial shortfall of funding. I’m really uncomfortable approving something when I don’t know what the consequences are.”

Health chiefs have 'clear programme' for improvements

A spokesperson for the Edinburgh Health and Social Care Partnership, said: “The figures for NHS Lothian clearly relate to the Lothians as a whole and the census provides a snapshot in time. The situation in Edinburgh is also presented separately and the trend in the city over the last year has been a reduction in waiting times and reducing our delays through getting people home or to a homely setting after time spent in hospital as soon as possible.

“Over the past 18 months we have significantly improved the city’s approach to getting people home quickly and safely, and by our census point in October we had almost halved the number of people delayed than at the same time in October 2018. We have however seen a significant increase in activity and demand for our services and this, as well as the recent loss of some care providers operating in the city, has seen an upswing and increase in our delays - a situation we are working very hard to recover.

“No one should have to wait longer than they need to and we have a clear programme of work focused on reducing our delays further.”