Russell calls for fundamental change at Argyll and Bute Health and Social Care Partnership as plans for yet more savage cuts emerge
Local Argyll and Bute MSP Michael Russell has called for major changes to the management and governance of the Argyll & Bute Health & Social Care Partnership after plans for the consideration – in secret – of yet more savage cuts to health and social care provision were leaked to newspapers.
“Across the country Health & Social Care Partnerships have faced up to the challenge of change and worked with communities to ensure that services do so too. As a result in most places the integration of Health and Social care has produced better outcomes and more effective use of resources.
But here in Argyll & Bute too much centralised bureaucracy, ineffective, confusing consultations and misguided, and often futile, attempts to force through unacceptable closures – like that of Struan Lodge in Dunoon – have resulted in an ever worsening financial position.
So despite their spin to the contrary the reality is that the recurring financial problems facing the senior management and board of the Argyll & Bute Health and Social Care Partnership are in substantial part the result of their own shortcomings. They arise directly from their failure to successfully change and develop what their organisation does in order to match changing need in the area. This is compounded by the failure of the organisation to implement effective budgetary control year after year.
I know from my constituency work that local people and hardworking health and care staff are utterly fed up with this situation and with the constant pressures on services.
Now – to make it even worse – many of those in the front line face losing their jobs as a result of a new set of cuts being drawn up a fact to which the trade union Unison has drawn attention in its open letter published last week.
To make matters worse the Partnership is not being open about what it are planning. Whilst they will put a few things on the table next week at their open meeting, they have now admitted to keeping secret a document which they intend to discuss later in private and which details a terrifying further range of options for more cost cutting.
These are believed to include the complete privatisation of all elderly care, the closure of all day centres, a reduction in the number of midwives and other essential staff and yet more pressure on the most vulnerable such as further reduction of the help available for sleepovers.
Yet the Partnership, by its own admission, hasn’t even met its current targets for cost savings, for example on the reduction in the use of prescription drugs.
In addition some of the items in the leaked documents appear to suggest cuts that even those in charge realise can’t work and which they know will be subject to massive opposition. Some may actually be against the law.
To put it bluntly the previous programmes of cuts haven’t worked. Some of the cuts they are now planning can’t work. Yet the senior management’s only answer is to do again what they have done before in the desperate hope it might produce a different result this time.
It won’t. Even if these cuts happened we would be back again next year in the same position. It is the people who are running the show who are the problem because they have the wrong solutions. That needs to change, and change now.
Enough is enough. Regrettably the Partnership has failed to deliver the health services that are required and show no sign of being able to do so. I have therefore written to the Cabinet Secretary for Health asking her to ensure that support and assistance is given to the Partnership in this crisis in order to find a way out and I will be meeting her later this week.
It is essential that some stability is provided, either from within the organisation or from outside intervention so that management and governance changes are made which will produce an organisation fit for purpose, dedicated to supporting those excellent health and care staff across the area who are trying to deliver high quality health and social care and are capable of taking these services forward in a time of great demographic change.
Nobody would say that providing health and social care is easy in current circumstances but here in Argyll & Bute there are many good people on the ground trying their best. The way in which they and the organisation they work for is managed and governed is the problem and that is what must be tackled now in a new and positive spirit.”