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Dunoon Observer and Argyllshire Standard Dunoon Observer and Argyllshire Standard


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SPEAKING ahead of Wednesday’s crunch meeting to consider savage cuts to health provision in Argyll and Bute, Scottish health secretary Shona Robison has revealed that she met with local health bosses two weeks ago – and she has now expressed disappointment that they didn’t tell her about their ‘secret’ cuts when they met. She has urged officials not to make any cuts until they sort out internal management problems.



Argyll and Bute Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP) is set to meet in Kilmory this Wednesday afternoon. After a public session the board will meet in private to discuss the possibility of closing all the publicly run care homes and day centres in the area – including Dunoon’s Struan Lodge and Rothesay’s Thomson Court.


In a letter in response to Argyll and Bute Council leader Aileen Morton, the health secretary – while agreeing that changes to local health provision are necessary – says that at her meeting with senior officers and the chair of the Integrated Joint Board she asked what was working well locally and what was not. She says she was not told about the planned massive cuts to service, adding: “Instead, I was told in broad terms that engaging on change remains a challenge.” The health secretary goes on: “The partnership is not yet making the progress needed to work openly with local people to progress the changes we all agree are necessary to ensure high standards of well-integrated care.”


She then urged local health bosses not to finalise ‘financial decisions that are not yet informed by thorough consideration’ at Wednesday’s meeting.


Ms Robison also raised her concern that ‘the approach taken in Argyll and Bute is now causing public and staff concern, which is working against the IJB being in a position to take decisions that improve services and public wellbeing’.


The health secretary urged the IJB to ‘consider carefully its responsibilities’ when it meets, and to ‘reconsider as a matter of the highest priority what further work it needs to complete in order to be in a position to agree its plan for next year.”


A clearly furious Argyll and Bute MSP Michael Russell said: “This letter 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 CEO of Argyll and Bute Council , met with the Cabinet Secretary a couple of weeks ago we now discover that they 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 Argyll and Bute MSP went on: “ The IJB were of course intending to go on hiding the true situation this week with their plan for a private 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 Partnership and others, has been very partial and 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 Partnership’s spin over the last week or so has been to point to figures that show good performance on certain criteria. But at no time have they mentioned what Shona Robison draws to their attention - that these figures are largely as the result of geography and past investment and that the meeting actually focused much more on the fact that, as Shona Robison puts it, the Partnership is ‘not yet making the progress needed to work openly with local people’.


“Finally Shona Robison has offered to work with the Partnership but on the basis that it does not go ahead with the cuts but 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 that it has to cut, it is doing so against the advice of the Cabinet Secretary and I have written to the IJB 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. It 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.


Health officials are at pains to point out that no decisions have been made yet.


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


All the news from Wednesday’s crunch meeting will be in Friday’s Standard

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