Edinburgh health bosses warn social care ‘crisis’ looms

Patients at risk as health and social care 'crisis' looms. Picture: Stock
Patients at risk as health and social care 'crisis' looms. Picture: Stock
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Health and social care bosses have been warned that a failure to balance the books could put patients at risk after it was revealed the department is £7 million over budget.

Opposition members have called on the city council to focus on getting to grips with the department, describing the situation as a “crisis”.

Conservative Cllr Andrew Johnson said: “They have taken their eye off the ball with it. Health and social care is in crisis and we don’t seem to be any further forward. If we continue in this way and whittle down the reserves, we will run out of reserves.

“The situation is only going to get worse and there will be a human cost of the council being unable to provide a good enough service for patients. The end game is that the council is going to run out of money if it carries on like this.”

READ MORE: Edinburgh social care bosses: We don’t know when crisis will end

Overall officers expect the council to fall short of its promised savings by £12.2m – which will be offset by draining around £10m from the authority’s reserves. With these savings, many of which are “one offs”, the council is on course for an overall overspend of £2.1m, half way through the financial year. Another £28m of savings will have to be found in next year’s budget.

It was revealed earlier this week that officers do not know when the council’s health and social care service will improve its performance following a series of missed targets, leading to a £7.1m projected overspend.

Green councillors have raised fears that further cuts will have an impact on levels of patient care – which are already under pressure to meet targets.

Green finance spokesperson Cllr Gavin Corbett said: “It is no surprise that these are the main budgets which are very much demand-led. That means that cutting services or delaying investment cannot be done without direct impact on people using services.

“The overall position is partly-masked by £10m of savings from city-wide budgets but many of them are one-offs that might not be available in future years. Senior officers are already telling me that this is the toughest budget they have had to deal with.”

Executive officers are now “identifying, as a matter of urgency, further proposed actions” to try to balance the health and social care budget. Next month, the Edinburgh Integration Joint Board (EIJB) will discuss a “financial recovery plan” – and has put short-term measures in place to try to get its finances in order.

Cllr Alasdair Rankin, convener of finance and resources, said: “Health and social care services are to a significant extent demand-led and, as such are subject to continuing expenditure pressures.

“Work is ongoing to identify and develop further potential mitigating actions and a report with an update on these from the Edinburgh Health and Social Care Partnership will be brought to the meeting of the EIJB next month.”