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Dunoon Observer and Argyllshire Standard Dunoon Observer and Argyllshire Standard


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A TRADE UNION has claimed that massive health cuts to be discussed next week could lead to 400 redundancies in the sector, the closure of all publicly-run care homes in Argyll and Bute - including Dunoon’s Struan Lodge - and the privatisation of publicly-run day centres, including Rothesay’s Thompson Court.

However, Argyll and Bute MSP Michael Russell has asked the health secretary to intervene in what is rapidly becoming a crisis for health provision in Argyll and Bute.


On Friday last week UNISON issued an open letter to politicians and local health bosses after announcements were made to staff at the end of last week.


Simon Macfarlane, UNISON Regional Organiser said: - ”Since news of these shocking proposals began to break UNISON has been inundated with members contacting us to express their dismay and fears, both for their own jobs and the services they provide. The vast majority of our members working in Argyll and Bute Health & Social Care Partnership live in Argyll and Bute, so they not only provide the services, they and their families use them too.

“The people of Argyll and Bute know only too well the dangers of outsourcing services, in the last 18 months we have seen independent providers go bust, walk away or be shut down due to appalling standards. It is incredible that against this backdrop the Integrated Joint Board is being asked to privatise all home care services.

“We thought the days of privatisation of public services are over in Scotland but it appears to be alive and well in Argyll and Bute. Our open letter states clearly UNISON is willing to work together with the NHS and Argyll and Bute Council to find a way forward that saves jobs, avoids privatisation, protects services and delivers an affordable budget. We are also clear though that if these cuts progress they will face outright opposition from UNISON and we will be calling on Ministers to intervene.”


Now, MSP Michael Russell has called for major changes to the management and governance of the Argyll and 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.

Mr Russell said:  “Across the country Health and 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 and 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 and 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.”


The MSP continued: “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 is 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.”

Integration Joint Board Robin Creelman explained why part of next Wednesday’s meeting is to be held in private. He said: “The officers have a duty to bring forward items to help ensure a budget balance. The meeting on March 28 is in two parts, one public and one private.


“The public care homes proposal is in the private session. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, it’s not in line with our strategic plan and secondly and more importantly, there has been no consultation, staff or public, carried out. To discuss this publicly prior to consultation would be wrong.


“Bearing in mind that NO recommendation has been made for closure of these homes we felt it would cause less alarm dealing with it in this manner.”

Michael Russell continued: “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 and 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.”


A Health and SOcial Care Partnership spokesman said: "No decisions on these proposals have been taken at this time and we will ensure that staff, local communities and other stakeholders are promptly informed of the decision from the IJB."


* Read UNISON's letter in full, and the latest on this story, in Friday's Standard.

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