Fife health & care facing “unpalatable” cuts

Thursday 20th June 2019

Fife health and social care partnership should refuse to set a budget for the coming year and ask the Scottish Government to address a £9m funding shortfall that is leading to “unpalatable” cuts, a partnership board member has suggested.

Councillor Tony Miklinski tells the “fundamentally unfair” situation is forcing the authority to propose deep cuts to social care, including care homes and care packages.

Fife HSCP faces an annual deficit because funding contributions from NHS Fife and Fife Council have not covered the costs of the services since it was established in 2016.

As a result, it has to cut money from services every year.

For the year ahead, the partnership faces a near £15m budget gap, but can only find £9m of savings.

Plans to save cash include not filling staff vacancies, a cap on new high cost care packages and higher charges for meals on wheels and community alarm services.

A budget report admits ‘increasing the charge always leads to people asking for their alarm to be uplifted’ but claims ‘people who need the service will not do this.’

The Health Secretary has previously said the council and the health board, not the Scottish Government, were responsible for addressing the longstanding funding gap.

But ahead of tomorrow’s meeting of the governing Integration Joint Board, the Conservative councillor says the partnership should “ask the Scottish Government to provide the underfunding that has been there since [the HSCP’s] inception.”

“That £9m deficit has pretty much reflected down every year where, despite the IJB’s best efforts, we’ve been unable to catch up to that scale of saving.”

“But although the Scottish Government has refunded a number of NHS [boards] with deficits, notably Tayside who are far in excess of our £9m, they have refused to address the Fife shortfall, so we’re forced to look at the most unpalatable cuts to close it.”

An amendment calling for the partnership to not set a budget and ask the Health Secretary to step in was rejected at the board’s last meeting.

Mr Miklinksi continued: “The bottom line is, despite trying we are unable to close that gap without some desperately difficult decisions.

“I think it’s fundamentally unfair there are plenty of things that the Scottish Government is spending money on and I don’t think they can be a higher priority than health and social care.”