Minister calls for health bosses to resign

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Argyll and Bute MSP Michael Russell says ‘genuine change is needed at the very top’ of the region’s health and social care executive, following its ‘eleventh-hour decision’ to reject a leaked, secret list of ‘terrifying’ service cuts.

The Integrated Joint Board (IJB), which met last Wednesday to decide on £13 million of savings proposed by officials in the Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP), apologised for any ‘anxiety’ caused by the ‘unsettling speculation’.

Mr Russell welcomed IJB chairman Robin Creelman’s ‘well-timed’ apology, but said it wasn’t enough. He said: ‘He recognised [it] could not proceed with plans overwhelmingly rejected by the communities the IJB exists to serve.

‘He also appears to have recognised the senior leadership of the IJB was to blame for the latest in a long line of blunders, not least in their decision to draw up a hidden list, for decision in private, of vital services they were prepared to consider cutting, largely because their own handling of previous attempts to change services had been a failure and had not secured a balanced budget.

‘But an apology is not enough. The board has now had to agree to the request from the cabinet secretary for health regarding urgent discussions on how to move forward, and these will have to focus on the real problems in management and governance that have been laid bare by the latest saga.’

Mr Russell added: ‘No more secret lists, no more attempts at private, back-door decisions, no more mass privatisation schemes, no more attempts at slashing those things vital to the most vulnerable in our society and no more arrogant refusals to listen to hard-pressed communities.

‘If the board comes back to its next meeting at the end of May with any such intentions, then I am sure the local reaction will be even fiercer than it was this time.’

Oban North and Lorn Councillor Kieron Green, vice-chairman of the IJB, said: ‘A number of NHS boards now having to request brokerage from the government to cover overspends.

‘It has now reached a point where it is simply not possible to deliver all services within the resources available. The extra £66m allocated across Scotland for social care this year didn’t come close to what was required to meet growth in demand and changes in legislation.

‘Central government now needs to be clear about exactly what support it will provide to ensure we can continue to meet the health and social care needs of people here in Argyll and Bute. Without additional funding, communities need to be prepared for the very real possibility of further cuts to services.’

An HSCP spokesperson said: ‘We will need to make £13 million of savings to help us meet the increasing demands for health and social care services and the rising costs of delivering these services.

‘We have also taken up offers of support from our partners (NHS Highland and Argyll and Bute Council) to develop our budget further and we will be meeting the Scottish Government to identify what help and support it can provide.’

See page three for more.