Edinburgh health chiefs 'to sit down with Scottish Government' for help bridging £7m funding gap

HEALTH chiefs are set to “sit down with the Scottish Government” in an attempt to bridge a £7m funding gap, four months into the financial year.

Friday, 19th July 2019, 6:24 pm
Health services in Edinburgh are set to be squeezed, Picture: Getty
Health services in Edinburgh are set to be squeezed, Picture: Getty

The Edinburgh Integration Joint Board (IJB), a council and NHS partnership that manages health services, has yet to agree a balanced budget. Last month, the board rejected proposals from finance chiefs to use £3.7m of “slippage”, which would have lead to further cuts to drugs and alcohol and mental health services.

Instead, officers have been told to draw up options for how a balanced budget could be achieved and what the impact would be on front-line services.

The IJB has received a combined £666m from the city council and NHS Lothian – but estimates it will need £687.5m to provide health and social care services, leaving a £21.5m gap. Almost £12m of saving have been identified and £2.4m has been taken out of reserves to help bridge the deficit. But a gap of around £7.2m remains ahead of next month’s crunch meeting.

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Chief finance officer Moira Pringle, said: “We are not in a position of having a balanced financial plan which is something that’s required of us.

“It is very hard to see how we can bridge this gap without impacting on performance.”

She added: “When we have the results fo the council’s first reporting and NHS Lothian’s quarter one review, we are going to be sitting down with them and sitting down with the Scottish Government as well, and looking at what the options are.

“It’s not a simple question of asking for more money, it’s a more mature debate about what our perspective priorities are.”

Conservative group leader Cllr Iain Whyte, raised concerns that only £5m of the £12m of agreed savings was deemed as “green”, labelled “extremely positive” by finance officials.

Cllr Whyte said: “My experience of this across the public sector is that things start to go amber or red later on as you start to find it’s more difficult.

“Discussions with the council and health board, once you have some reporting is all very well, but surely the concept of the strategy to close that gap comes from this management team and this board rather than from the partners. If it’s about asking for more funding, I’m not sure that there is necessarily funding available.”

The board rejected plans to use £3.7m from service budget including Seek, Keep and Treat funding for drug and alcohol services and Action 15 money for mental health services.

Chairman of the IJB, Cllr Ricky Henderson, called for officers to draw up options for the board to consider in order to agree a balanced budget at August’s meeting.

He said: “We have asked the chief finance officer and the chief officer to come back with a report for the August meeting about what decisions we would have to take in order to achieve a break-even position for this financial year and what those decision would involved.

“Then we would have to consider whether we go down the road of the Action 15 funding or the drug and alcohol funding or whatever other services may have to be amended, curtailed or reduced. Then we could make all of those decisions together, knowing what the big picture is and take a balanced view as to what the impact would be on our operation and our aspirations for the future.”