Fife Council co-leaders David Ross and David Alexander have requested a meeting with the Health Secretary, Jean Freeman, to devise a long-term plan for the under-pressure health and social care service, which has been forced to make millions of pounds of cuts despite rising demand.
As reported by QV, two day centres are to close and charges for meals on wheels and community alarms will rise as part of £8m of cost-cutting measures decided in February. A further £6.6m in savings s needs to be found. There is concern that the cumulative impact of the budget cuts will be extremely damaging to health and social care services.
However, the Health Secretary has said the budget shortfall must be addressed by Fife Council and NHS Fife. “Together with COSLA, we’re engaging with them and the IJB to support their plans to systematically reduce the deficit without reducing capacity by redesigning services and delivery and investing in quality, sustainable care,” she said.
The council co-leaders rejected a call from Conservative councillor Tony Miklinski to request an additional £7m a year from the Scottish Government to support services.
Mr Ross said “The reduction of the problem to one purely of finance and the belief a £7m figure will fix it all undermines the complexity of this problem. We are facing, over the medium and long term, demographic changes, more complex care needs, more financial challenges and the need to move services from acute into the community. That’s a much more complicated issue we need to face rather than blandly asking for an amount of money.”
The Labour co-leader went on to say that the Tories’ proposal to move more services into the private sector was not how the local authority wanted to proceed. “Instead, we need a credible and long-term plan for services and finances in Fife that we should be putting together as a partnership, identifying where we think the pressures are and where we think the Scottish Government can practically help us to address these concerns.”
Editor’s note: It is hard to see how injecting a substantial amount of cash into the system will not be part of the solution. The funding gap is so great that it cannot be bridged by efficiency savings and service redesign – the solutions that politicians inevitably suggest when funds are limited.