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IJB told to plan ahead

Simon Bokor-Ingram. Photo: Shetland News

SHETLAND’s health and social care partnership has been told to do more to plan its financial strategy over the coming years amid pressure to find millions in savings.

External auditors Deloitte told members of the isles’ integration joint board, which brings together Shetland Islands Council and NHS Shetland, that it should implement a medium term financial plan.

It followed a similar warning from last year’s audit report that said the board needed to plan ahead more thoroughly.

Auditors warned at a meeting of the IJB on Friday that the board “continues to face an extremely challenging financial position” and noted it had gone £2.39 million over budget in 2017/18.

The health board agreed to fund the gap in its part of the budget to allow the IJB to balance the books, but “this is not a sustainable long term practice and allows the IJB to defer responsibility and action for providing a sustainable service”.

IJB chief officer Simon Bokor-Ingram said after the meeting that the partnership has listened to the advice and is now preparing a financial plan for the coming years.

“It’s something that we’ve taken on board and we are in the process of developing,” he said.

“We’re awaiting the financial framework that the Scottish Government will be issuing later this month, and we will use that as the basis to inform our strategic financial planning going forward over the next three to five years.”

Elsewhere in the audit report, the IJB was recommended to make further efforts to “focus on savings through predominantly recurring means”.

Scenario planning exercises have taken place in recent months as health staff explore how services could look in the future amid a drive to cut costs.

But there is uncertainty over exactly where the savings will be made, with a funding gap of around £2.28 million expected this financial year alone.

Vice-chairman and councillor Allison Duncan reiterated at the meeting that the health board should be stepping up pressure on the Scottish Government to provide extra funding to alleviate the cost of taking on temporary locum staff and providing their transport and accommodation.

Bokor-Ingram, meanwhile, issued caution on the idea of the health board asking for a brokerage loan from the Scottish Government to make ends meet, saying it would “get us further into the hole” – and not out of it.