Aberdeen IJB backs health & care budget

‘Tough choices’ on horizon if government funding falls, financial strategy warns

Friday 15th March 2019

The body responsible for community health care and social care services in Aberdeen has warned of a difficult financial outlook as it approves next year’s budget.

Sarah Duncan, who chairs the board that oversees the Aberdeen City Health & Social Care Partnership (HSCP), said: “I am confident that we have a robust budget for 2019/20 and clear and coherent financial plans for the following medium-term period – but nobody is denying the many funding pressures which lie ahead and we need to be mindful of these in everything that we do.”

The Integration Joint Board (IJB), which is made up of representatives from NHS Grampian and Aberdeen City Council, this week approved a budget for 2019/20 and a financial strategy for the next five years that identifies ‘likely budget pressures’ over the next five years.

Aberdeen’s HSCP has around £313m to spend in the upcoming financial year.

£222m was provided by the health service and a further £91m from Aberdeen City Council.

Board members backed additional funding for the council’s arms-length social care provider, Bon Accord Care, and to cover the payment of the Scottish Living Wage for care workers.

But a report on the financial strategy for the next five years warns ‘tough choices will need to be made about what the IJB wants to deliver’ if funding from central government falls further.

“It will be extremely difficult for the IJB to continue to generate the level of savings year on year to balance its budget. The IJB and Partnership only has limited control and influence over major parts of its budget,” it states.

Due to the way the HSCP is funded and structured, with much of its spending either outside its control or transferred for GPs or hospitals to spend as they see fit, the IJB says it only has ‘direct control’ over half of its budget.

And it says most of this must be spent on services it is legally required to provide.

One of these areas, the costs of medicines prescribing, is described as ‘high-risk’.

Decisions to prescribe a patient drugs are made on the basis of doctors’ judgement and the price of a drug is set nationally, meaning the HSCP has little influence over this area of spending.

There’s also a warning that ‘Brexit might increase the price of drugs further than predicted.’

Earlier this week the head of public health at NHS Borders warned the cost of prescribing at the board had risen by 42% due to national policy, which has seen more medicines being approved for use but no commensurate increase in funding for health board.