Edinburgh health chiefs set to reduce funding gap to £300k - but budget still not agreed six months into the year

A funding gap for health and social care provision in the Capital is set to be whittled down to £300,000 – with a budget expected to be finally agreed six months into the financial year.

Sunday, 20th October 2019, 8:57 am
Health and social care bosses will attempt to set a balanced budget on Tuesday

The Edinburgh Integration Joint Board (IJB) is expected to agree a solution to bridge an initial £21.5m funding gap for the 2019-20, having failed to do so since April, when the financial year began.

A detailed saving programme to cut £12m was drawn up in the spring. Health bosses have managed to accelerate their savings projects, shaving almost £1m off the overall funding gap.

As thing stand, £8.6m will be used from one-off funds and reserves to balance the books – while the gap has been reduced to £3.9m after adjustments were made to the funding provided by NHS Lothian, which was initially based on assumptions. Of the remaining gap, £3.7m will be found from “slippage” while almost £300,000 “will be identified between now and the year end”.

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In August, at a meeting held behind closed doors in private, chief finance officer Moira Pringle tabled proposals that would have seen unused funding, including for drug and alcohol services and mental health, being used to balance the books – but the board, made up of councillors, council staff and NHS Lothian representatives, rejected the idea after the Scottish Government advised officials the money shouldn’t be used for that purpose.

Lothian MSP Miles Briggs said: “The Edinburgh IJB have no chance of getting on top of the social care crisis in the Capital if they don’t first sort out their budget.

“Not having a budget agreed halfway through the financial year shows a real lack of leadership for improving social care in Edinburgh. SNP Ministers must acknowledge the difficulties that the Edinburgh IJB are in and provide them the support they need to get back on their feet.

“Under the SNP, Edinburgh City Council and NHS Lothian are the most underfunded local authority and health board per head of population in Scotland. The preoccupation of the SNP with Independence is to the detriment of social care provision in Edinburgh which has been overlooked far too long.”

Last year, the IJB was only able to balance the books at the end of the year following a bail-out by both the city council and NHS Lothian.

A spokesperson from the Edinburgh IJB said: “The savings programme hasn’t been increased in-year and we’ve been working to the same target all year. But we have over-achieved some of our savings programmes from initial estimates.

“The chief finance officer presented a finance update report to the board in August. This paper included proposals for using slippage in investment monies held in reserves. The EIJB did not agree to use this slippage but agreed that further work would be done to ensure the board’s commitments with specific funding streams could me met and the paper being presented to October’s board brings that forward.

“The board will be seeking ways to ensure deliver of its strategic plan and further funding gaps through recurring means, however, it recognises that it will always be prudent to have a reserve in place and this is set out in a reserves policy. In the previous financial year, the EIJB required additional in-year funding from both its partners. That we are approaching balance in-year within existing IJB resources, and improving performance, demonstrates real progress for the board to build upon in future years.”