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Minister non-committal on extra health money

| Written by Chris Cope

Scotland's minister for public health Aileen Campbell. Photo: Shetland News/Chris Cope. Scotland's minister for public health Aileen Campbell. Photo: Shetland News/Chris Cope. SCOTTISH minister for public health Aileen Campbell has suggested that no extra money will be coming to health and social care in Shetland for the time being.

Vice chairman of the isles’ integration joint board (IJB) Allison Duncan told the minister at Monday’s NHS Shetland annual review that “draconian cuts” are on their way if the Scottish Government doesn’t stump up more cash to help tackle the health board’s deficit.

Speaking to Shetland News after the meeting, Campbell said budget discussions happen “all the time” between the government, local authorities and the NHS. But she stopped short of promising more help to soften the health board’s finances.

Councillor Duncan previously told the IJB, which oversees health and social care in the isles by bringing together the local authority and health board, that the budget deficit in the local NHS was “catastrophic”.

In December last year NHS Shetland chief executive Ralph Roberts said the health board would have to cut spending by around £4 million as rising costs continue to outstrip its core funding from the government.

It has already secured half a million pounds by closing Gilbert Bain Hospital’s Ronas Ward and it is set to save around £300,000 a year by striking a new deal with Loganair for patient travel.

When asked about Duncan’s remarks, Campbell referred to the SNP’s pledge to increase funding for health across Scotland by £2 billion over the next four years.

SIC councillor Allison Duncan described the minister's comments as a "pretty negative response". SIC councillor Allison Duncan described the minister's comments as a "pretty negative response".

The South Mainland councillor, however, wasn’t impressed by the minister’s answer on the day, calling it a “pretty negative response”.

“What I said to him today was that the government has protected our NHS budget and that Shetland has had its allocation of its protected budget, and that actually, at the last election no other party pledged to put more into the NHS than the SNP did,” Campbell said.

“While we recognise there are challenges there across public life, what we have sought to do – within our what is also a reduced budget – Is to protect the NHS and the work that it does, as best as we can.”

Campbell admitted that reforming the NHS can throw up some “uncomfortable” challenges, particularly as it adapts to an ageing population.

“What we’re asking of our NHS is very different to what we’ve asked of our NHS maybe 20, 30 years ago, so it needs to change and adapt,” the MSP added.

“That’s why we’ve undergone a transformative process of integrating health with social care, to make sure that care is provided in a seamless way and that people are at the heart of services. It requires people to work in partnership and collaboration.

“What it also means is that we’re not going to say to councillors or others to not challenge government, but I think it means that we have to work with one another and ensure that people at the heart of what we do…to deliver the services and the outcomes that they deserve, given that they’re the ones putting their resources into the coffers and expect rightly high quality services.”

Campbell, meanwhile, declined to be drawn on NHS Shetland’s management of its patient travel review earlier this year, which initially focused on making patients travel to Aberdeen on the overnight ferry for treatment before it made a U-turn after public criticism.

A common theme of Monday’s annual review was the health board admitting that it needed to do better in communicating with the public.

But Campbell said the patient travel review – which was described it as a “debacle” by one member of the public in the meeting – showed that the health board does listen to the community.

“I guess what would be good now would be to focus on the outcome, which is that the people have made their views known, they’ve made their voices heard, they’ve made their views very clear,” she said.

“And what’s also good and is a positive to take from this is that the health board listened to those views and acted accordingly, and what we can then focus on is how do we make sure and how does NHS Shetland make sure that that communication is as good and as robust and as transparent as it can be going forward.”

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