Letter: IJB should listen to health secretary

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Sir,

The Scottish government cabinet secretary for health and sport Shona Robison sent a letter about the Argyll and Bute Health and Social Care Integration Joint Board to the council leader Aileen Morton.

It was copied to all councillors and reveals some very concerning information.

Firstly when the IJB senior management, as well as the chair of the IJB, the chief executive of NHS Highland and the council CEO met the cabinet secretary a couple of weeks ago we now discover that it never even mentioned the impending financial crisis.

Still less the drastic list of cuts – amounting to 14 big pages of spreadsheet information –  they had drawn up.

That is an incredible situation for which there appears to be no explanation except an intention to hide the true situation as long as possible even from a Government Minister who was offering to help.

The IJB was of course intending to go on hiding the true situation this week with their plan for a meeting to consider private papers. Courageous leaks to the press put paid to that.

Secondly the account of the meeting between the IJB and the cabinet secretary, which has been put about by the IJB and others, has been very partial.

It has sought to hide, once again, the reality of the criticisms that have been made of them by many people including the cabinet secretary.

The IJB’s spin during the last week has pointed to figures that show good performance on certain criteria.

At no time has it mentioned what Ms Robison draws to its attention – that these figures are largely as the result of geography and past investment.

The meeting actually focused much more on the fact that, as Ms Robison puts it, the IJB is: ‘…not yet making the progress needed to work openly with local people.’

Finally Ms Robison has offered to work with the IJB but on the basis that it does not go ahead with the cuts and instead, along with the council and the Health Board looks closely at itself, how it operates and how it needs to change.

If the IJB still insists it has to cut, it is doing so against the advice of the cabinet secretary and I have written to its chair and CEO today to make that point.

The truth is that it does not have to set a final budget this week -it can simply roll over its budget whilst, as a matter of urgency, it addresses the failings in its management and governance that have led it to this disastrous situation.

In addition to looking at the capabilities of all the senior figures involved that consideration must address failures in budgeting, planning, and communication with unions, staff and the general public.

The IJB must seek out the truth about how this situation has arisen and, working with others, plan a sensible way forward with massive improvements in management and governance.

An apology to unions, staff and the general public might be a good way to start.

Michael Russell,

MSP Argyll and Bute.