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Excluding mental health from savings target unfair to other services

Simon Bokor-Ingram: 'disproportionate'. Photo: Shetland News

SHETLAND’s health and social care partnership could decide against imposing a controversial £200,000 cut on the isles mental health service, according to chief officer Simon Bokor-Ingram.

He told Thursday’s meeting of the Integration Joint Board (IJB) that members could recommend diverting the savings elsewhere if they did not feel it was the right move to make.

But Bokor-Ingram said efficiencies needed to be found across the whole of the IJB – which needs to find nearly £10 million savings over the next five years – and that it could be unfairly disproportionate if some areas, like mental health, were excluded from this process.

Councillors expressed concern last week over making the efficiency when there have been long waiting times for mental health treatment in Shetland.

The saving comes from £200,000 taken out of Shetland Islands Council’s contribution to the IJB for the next financial year and it is earmarked for mental health.

Bokor-Ingram confirmed that a report would be delivered to the IJB on the proposed savings by May or June before being heard by the council.

“The IJB could [recommend the saving is found in another area], but obviously we’d need to identify what that other area is,” he said after the meeting.

“I think it’s important that we look for efficiencies across all of our services, because otherwise if we exclude some areas from having to make efficiencies or look at efficiencies, then that means a disproportionate percentage falls to the remaining services.

“What’s important is that we focus on improving outcomes for individuals through this work, that’s what we’re doing, and then looking for an efficiency that falls out of focusing on better outcomes and having a more responsive and efficient service.”

IJB vice-chairman and councillor Allison Duncan said there had been some “serious concerns” over the proposal within the council.

Hillswick GP Susan Bowie asked where exactly the efficiencies could be found in mental health, with Bokor-Ingram confirming that it would be within the social care element.

Councillor Emma Macdonald meanwhile suggested that members were being asked to discuss something “that’s already going to happen”.

“We’re not getting the time to get ahead,” she said.

NHS chief executive Ralph Roberts warned about a reliance on having to make savings like this every year.

“You will only get out of that if you make very significant savings about the service that you provide,” he said.