Auditors have warned a black hole in health and social care funding in Dundee is a “significant” cause for concern.
The city’s integrated joint board (IJB), a partnership between Dundee City Council and NHS Tayside to provide health and social care, was £2.2 million over budget at the end of the last financial year, an audit report has shown.
The deficit was run up, despite the body using almost all of its emergency reserves and receiving an additional £3m from the council and health board combined.
The latest budget report is now estimating an overspend of £500,000 for this year, without taking into account the cost of coronavirus, expected to be around £11.5m.
Fiona Mitchell-Knight, audit director at Audit Scotland, said: “We do recognise the significant implications of the pandemic on the IJB and its ability to progress its improvement plan, however, progress was slow prior to the impact of the pandemic being felt.
“The low level of reserves, combined with a trend of overspends and the uncertainty over funding Covid-19 costs represents a significant financial sustainability risk for the IJB.
“The lack of sustainability undermines how the IJB will be able to improve and deliver vital health and social care services.
“The majority of IJBs are struggling to demonstrate financial sustainability and you are not alone in not having medium to long term plans to demonstrate that.
“However the level of reserves you now have is very low and is something for concern.”
The IJB has been given £2.1m in government funding so far in the pandemic but it is not yet known if all coronavirus-related costs will be covered.
Vicky Irons, the IJB’s chief officer, said the pandemic will change both the demand for services and how they are provided.
“Covid-19 has very significantly altered our perspective on what is possible but also where there is scope for change.
“It has highlighted opportunities for innovation, but also highlighted the scale of demand for our services.
“Demand for people to receive care and treatment in communities and their own homes is going to be higher now than they have ever seen it.
“There will be a period of reflection and readjustment required and that will inform our investment and efficiency plans.”