MSP calls for change at health board

Mike Russell.
Mike Russell.

“Genuine change” is needed at the very top of the Integration Joint Board (IJB) in Argyll & Bute, according to local SNP MSP Michael Russell.

Commenting after a board decision not to consider a list of cuts leaked to the press, and after a public apology by the board’s chairman Robin Creelman, Mr Russell said: Robin Creelman’s apology was welcome and well timed.

“The pressure from the public on the IJB was overwhelming and he recognised that he and his board could not proceed with plans that were being overwhelmingly rejected by the communities the IJB exists to serve.

He also appears to have recognised that the senior leadership of the IJB was to blame for the latest in a long line of blunders, not least in their decision to draw up a hidden list, for decision in private, of vital services they were prepared to consider cutting, largely because their own handling of previous attempts to change services had been a failure and had not secured a balanced budget.

“But an apology is not enough. The board has now had to agree to the request from the Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Health regarding urgent discussions on how to move forward and these will have to focus on the real problems in management and governance that have been laid bare by the latest saga.

Hard working local health and social care staff and all the rest of us who receive services from them need to be reassured that it will not be business as usual for the people who have created this mess or the body they are meant to lead.

“There needs to be visible and genuine change and a new plan for adapting what is provided to the developing needs of an area which is losing population whilst the average age rises.

“I know the Scottish Government is keen to help the Board devise that plan and I have told Robin Creelman I am also happy to help providing there is a commitment not to make the same mistakes and to ensure that communication and consultation with staff and public is real and meaningful.

“That means, at the minimum, no more secret lists, no more attempts at private, back door, decisions, no more mass privatization schemes, no more attempts at slashing those things vital to the most vulnerable in our society and no more arrogant refusals to listen to hard pressed communities.

“However if the Board comes back to its next meeting at the end of May with any such intentions, or without any clear indications that things have changed then I am sure the local reaction will be even fiercer than it was this time.”

An HSCP spokesman said: “We completely recognise that the speculation over the IJB budget proposals has been unsettling for staff, our local communities and our stakeholders and we would like to apologise for any anxiety and concern that it may have caused..

“At the same time we do still need to highlight that we have a very significant budget gap and we will need to make £13 million of savings to help us meet the increasing demands for health and social care services and the rising costs of delivering these services. This will ensure that we can continue to deliver a high quality, safe, modernised and sustainable service for the people of Argyll and Bute.

“We have also taken up offers of support from our partners (NHS Highland and Argyll and Bute Council) to develop our budget further and we will be meeting the Scottish Government to identify what help and support they can provide as well.

“Our senior managers also meet and work with elected representatives on a regular basis and we would therefore of course be happy to meet with Mike Russell.

“Finally, we would like to thank our staff for their hard work and dedication to the communities which they serve.”