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Health / McGregor calls for IJB to be a ‘little more aggressive’ in budget talks

A COUNCILLOR believes Shetland’s health and social care partnership should get tougher with its requests for more funding – saying “the days of being nice guys are over”.

South mainland member Robbie McGregor made the call as members of the integration joint board (IJB) discussed future budget setting at a meeting on Thursday.

SNP councillor Robbie McGregor.
Councillor Robbie McGregor.

The board has a projected overspend of £2.581m for the 2019/20 financial year, with the majority of this coming from the NHS Shetland arm of the budget.

As a separate legal entity the IJB, which brings together NHS Shetland and Shetland Islands Council, is expected to break-even based on an anticipated one-off payment from the NHS.

Finance officer Karl Williamson said be believed the IJB needs to be “more active” in the budget-setting process with the council and health board going forward – including asking for more funding it things don’t stack up.

SNP councillor McGregor called for the IJB to be tougher in the budget negotiations.

“The time has come now that I’m a bit uncomfortable about ‘things can be okay’,” he said.

“I think we have to start getting a little more aggressive now.”

North mainland councillor Emma Macdonald echoed his views, adding: “We need to say if you want us to deliver this and this, you have to give us more money.”

NHS Shetland interim chief executive Simon Bokor-Ingram, however, took a somewhat more pragmatic view.

He said a key driver of overspend is relying on costly agency staff, but the health board would find it difficult to employ more people to counter this as the pool of potential staff is small.

“I think we have to be careful of what we are asking for,” Bokor-Ingram said.

He said the financial picture of the IJB looks different mid-year than it does at the end of the year when it breaks even.

“On paper we have got these deficits, and then they are funded at the end of the year.”

IJB chair Natasha Cornick said that on the surface “it does not make sense” – suggesting there could be something wrong with the budget setting process if the IJB continually predicts a deficit.

Williamson, meanwhile, highlighted that the Scottish Government is postponing announcing details of its budget for 2020/21 until next year due to the upcoming UK general election.

The Scottish Government was originally due to make its budget announcement on 12 December – the day the UK goes to the polls.