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‘Crisis’ cut budget for Moray health and social care agreed, with more in the pipeline

By Lewis McBlane

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A “CRISIS” budget for Moray’s health and social care has been agreed, which includes plans to slash spending by £9 million — with another £4 million of cuts required.

The Moray Integrated Joint Board agreed a huge cuts package, with more still to be slashed.
The Moray Integrated Joint Board agreed a huge cuts package, with more still to be slashed.

Agreed yesterday by Moray’s Integration Joint Board (IJB), cuts will see weekend occupational therapy and physiotherapy scrapped at Dr Gray’s.

This year’s budget for Health and Social Care Moray (HSCM) means the local out of hours service will be relocated and £2.3 million cut from staffing costs for mental health and learning disability services.

Community hospitals will also be reviewed which, the meeting heard, will involve officials “drilling down” on costs at Seafield Hospital, Buckie, in particular.

Savings are also planned through by reviewing Moray’s elderly day services — which are delivered at the Linnburn Day Centre in Rothes according to Moray Council’s website.

Other projects are also facing review, including: safety improvements at the Ward 4 mental health unit at Dr Gray’s; Moray’s care at home service; the Greenfingers social and therapeutic horticultural project at Cooper Park; care facilities in the area; and respite care.

All outsourced project management will be scrapped, while pay bands for weekend working will be lowered and HSCM will review contracts in all four of its localities.

Interim chief financial officer Deborah O’shea said HSCM, a joint effort between NHS Grampian and Moray Council, is facing a “very challenging financial year”.

Both the health board and the council are “under extreme pressure this year”, she added.

The budget also commits the IJB to finding another £3.8m of cuts, to be agreed at their next meeting on May 30, to balance the books.

IJB member Sandy Riddell, who is also head of Scotland’s Mental Welfare Commission, said “we have got a significant crisis”.

The £9m cuts package was agreed at “painful” meetings in March, he revealed, as he cautioned that “really difficult and potentially controversial changes” were coming.

He also pushed MHSCP leaders to consult as widely as possible before the details of the cuts are revealed in May.

And, Mr Riddell added, his “heart sunk” when he learned that a set of £1.57 million cuts plan agreed last year had saved only £33,000 so far.

He argued that this meant that making the £9.5 million of agreed cuts, and the looming £3.7 million cutback, could be more difficult and take longer than expected.

Derick Murray, an NHS Grampian board member, said the public had to be told about the “really difficult situation” facing the MHSCP, in contrast with the Scottish Government’s message that all is “hunky dory”.

He added: “If people don’t understand the real difficulties that the IJB is in, then they really can’t understand why we’re making decisions that we probably don’t want to make.”

Staff representative Kevin Todd agreed, arguing that the public urgently needed to hear about “what a state we’re in” before cuts take effect.

“It's time we communicated with our communities properly so they can see what a state we're in and that they can engage with us,” he said.

“If we don't take the communities along, they're not going to buy into it at all.

He added that some services in Moray “actually meet people’s wants rather than their needs”, and “the community out there is just not using the services as they‘re designed to be used”.

Ivan Augustus, who represents unpaid carers on the IJB, said that the legacy of “what we [NHS Grampian and Moray Council] have done to people” caused the local community to have strong reactions to service changes.

“These events, and I've been through so many of them, leave the public and carers feeling that things are being done to them without any power to change them,” he said.

“They're just left with the consequences.

“Public expectation is structured by us and history - by what we've done to people.

“Now, they still expect the same things. Those days are gone, but how are you going to get them back on board?”

While Councillor Tracy Colyer (Conservative, Keith and Cullen) issued a forthright plea to make the necessary cuts quickly.

“We just haven’t got the time to mess about,” she said.

What will be cut — and how much will be saved?

The biggest cuts are planned in mental health and learning disabilities, totalling £2.3 million.

Savings will be made by reviewing how the services are staffed, by reducing the number of stand-in locums required.

The second-highest area of cuts, at £2m, are listed as: “additional considerations”.

This includes a review of plans for Moray’s inpatient acute mental health unit, Ward 4 at Dr Gray’s, and along with a review of community hospitals.

Plans to use more digital technology are also set to contribute to this saving, along with reviewing MHSCP’s unrecovered debts and charging policy.

Also included is a full review of older person day services, which are currently delivered at the Linnburn Centre in Rothes.

The third-biggest set off cuts will be to “localities and prevention”.

Including a total of £1.8m of cuts, this will involve significant changes to Moray’s vaccination programme and a full review of respite provision in the area.

Also included is a review of internal and external care facilities. while outsourced project management of HSCM schemes will stop completely.

Staff will be moved to a lower pay band for weekends work and the organisation will fully review contracts across all of its Moray’s four localities.

Also revealed, are plans to save £1 million through, by cutting high-salary vacant jobs through working more closely with health and social care bosses leadership in Aberdeen.

Together, a full review of Moray’s internal care at home service and a review of social and therapeutic horticulture project Greenfingers at Cooper Park, are set to save £984,000.

Out of hours services in Moray will also be relocated, according to the plans, with the savings worth £721,000.

And cuts worth £538,000 are planned for how HSCM handles transport, infrastructure and supplies.

These include changes to rules around council pool cars, centralising equipment and tracking equipment purchases more closely.

Also included are plans for MHSCP to stop renting accommodation, to repurpose its buildings and to move staff into shared offices.

And moving some of Moray’s spending on equipment to Aberdeen, along with stopping weekend occupational therapy and physiotherapists in Moray - will together save £232,000.

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