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The new man in charge of Argyll and Bute’s health and social care partnership has ‘strong confidence’ in the future of the service.
Councillor Kieron Green officially took over as chairman of the partnership’s integration joint board (IJB) on Monday April 1, succeeding Robin Creelman.
The Argyll and Bute Council member, who represents the Oban North and Lorn ward, had previously been in the position prior to Mr Creelman’s appointment in 2017.
Now that he is back in the chair, he is determined to oversee a successful future for the health and social care partnership (HSCP), not least its financial side.
While a health overspend will be written off by NHS Highland, nearly £2.8 million is due to be paid to Argyll and Bute Council.
A dispute over a £1.2m service level agreement with NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde presents further challenges.
Councillor Green said: ‘I strongly believe in the value of public services, and feel health and social care is an important area in many people’s lives.
‘I am sure all of us have experiences of care, personally and through those close to us, and these will inevitably shape our views of how it is provided.
‘I am therefore delighted to continue to have the opportunity to help shape the development of health and social care locally.
‘Since I joined the IJB I have served firstly as chairman, and then for the past two years as vice-chairman. During this time my knowledge of the range of care delivered throughout our towns, villages and islands has increased greatly.
‘I’ve seen the fantastic work being carried out by our own staff as well as by valued partnerships with the third and independent sectors.
‘All of this has helped, and will continue to help, inform the decisions I make as a board member. I also regularly feed these experiences into discussions happening at a national level which assists in shaping policies being implemented across Scotland.
‘Integration of health and social care continues to have the potential to deliver significant benefits for those using services.
‘As such, there is a commitment at a national level by the Scottish Government to support integration, and locally between Argyll and Bute Council and NHS Highland to the success of Argyll and Bute HSCP.
‘Alongside the dedication of the workforce, the contributions made by third and independent sector organisations, and the range of skills and experience of members of the IJB I have a strong confidence in the future of the partnership.’
Councillor Green was previously a school technician for 10 years, but became involved in local politics, first as a member of his community council and as a trade union shop steward.
He was elected as an independent Argyll and Bute councillor in a by-election in June 2016 and was re-elected at the next full election a year later, soon combining his full-time work as a councillor with his duties on the IJB.
In his spare time, he enjoys travelling, photography and playing bridge.
But the financial cards have not fallen in the IJB’s favour of late, with an overspend of £5m looking likely for 2018/19, although some of that will be written off by NHS Highland.
Councllor Green continued: ‘The forecast overspend within the HSCP during 2018/19, as reported during in papers to the March IJB, was £3.929m across all services within Argyll.
‘Of this, £1.156m is in relation to health services delivered by us locally, and £2.773m is for social care.
‘In addition, there is a risk that another £1.2m may be required, due to the increases in funding being asked for by NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde for services they deliver.
‘Any health overspend for 2018/19 will, in line with the agreement by government to draw a line under the finances of NHS Highland, be written off.
‘On the social care side, agreement will be reached between Argyll and Bute Council and the HSCP regarding timescales for repayment.
‘This will take into account the financial situation of both organisations and the importance of the services delivered.
‘Following a determined effort by officers to find efficiencies, and through some changes in the ways in which we deliver services, we have been able to approve a balanced budget for the coming year.
‘Further options for the financial year 2020/21 will be formulated and developed over the coming months.
‘These will then be subject to appropriate engagement and consultation prior to the next budget meeting in March 2020.
‘As well as changes we are making within Argyll, we of course expect NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde to become more efficient in delivering services to Argyll residents.
‘Another priority for us is making more services available locally which will also mean saving travel by patients.
‘Given this, I hope that it will be possible for an agreement to be reached on finances between NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and Argyll and Bute HSCP.
‘However, if it is not, there are procedures to resolve any disputes involving NHS funding.’
And Councillor Green is looking forward to the other challenges which lie ahead over his two-year tenure back in the chair.
He added: ‘Over the course of this year it will be important for me to help embed a culture of sustainability around our finances and the delivery of services.
‘I also feel it a priority to ensure that when we bring forward future proposals for services that we have greater time to work through these with our staff, service users and communities.’