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Headlines in the press and social media, during the last month, have highlighted significant concerns, expressed by communities, staff and politicians, related to the potential changes which the Argyll and Bute Health and Social Care Partnership Integration Joint Board (IJB) has considered to balance its budget.
It is right that these issues are flagged up and that communities take ownership of the precious services which exist to support people.
It is also essential that those faced with making the difficult decisions about prioritisation of public finances listen to the voices of those who use the services.
I worked in NHS Highland until May 2017 and I am very aware of how challenging it is for service managers to meet the growing costs of health and social care from within existing budgets.
Continuous efforts are made to address areas of harm, waste and variation in the systems of care.
Some of these do yield significant financial benefits – for example,
reducing the number of people who fall and sustain harmful injuries is beneficial primarily for the people themselves, but it also reduces the financial costs of hospital stays and surgery.
Nonetheless, the growing need for care cannot be ignored and neither can the growing costs of care.
The current health and social care budget in Scotland is not sufficient to cover the costs of delivering the kind of care that we would like for all those who need it.
Service managers are faced with daily challenges and dichotomies about how the available budget is allocated for those with the greatest need.
Having worked with these managers for many years, I know the level of commitment and hard work that each of them dedicates to the provision of care.
In the same way that the frontline teams of care at home staff, social workers, doctors, nurses, pharmacists and allied health professionals work for the good of the people of Argyll and Bute, so too do those who are less visible to the public but who are nonetheless focussed on doing the right thing.
Political point scoring and one upmanship serve only to distract from the real issues.
Rather than vilifying the providers of our services in Argyll and Bute, we must all find ways to work together to ensure that our communities’ needs are met in the best way possible.
The region’s communities hold many of the answers, are committed to
sustainable and resilient futures and are keen to work in true collaboration with the statutory service providers.
This will require more active and meaningful engagement by the IJB with communities, so that the voices of those who use, and of those who need,
the services are not only heard but also action is taken
By forging new relationships and egalitarian partnerships we can find innovative and creative solutions to the current challenges.
Tax payers, need to consider what kind of health and social care services are wanted in Scotland and whether to pay more for them.
We must address the issues which cause people in more deprived areas to have poorer health, we must increase the investment in primary care and community care to help people to stay independent and well.
We must invest in social care and develop a career structure that values and recognises the contribution of carers to sustaining people at home.
This will require a greater percentage of our GDP than currently paid.
Argyll and Bute Greens.