The Scottish Government has been urged to step in to bridge a £9 million funding gap in Fife’s under-pressure health and social care budget.
Labour MSP Alex Rowley insisted Holyrood should make up the shortfall in funding amid claims the region’s integration joint board (IJB) is struggling to deliver crucial services.
His call was echoed by Fife Conservative councillor Tony Miklinski, who said services for the region’s most vulnerable people would face further cuts unless the Scottish Government “pays what it owes”.
The comments came after health minister Jeane Freeman blamed the underfunding on NHS Fife and Fife Council and said it was up to them to address the deficit.
The IJB, funded jointly by the health board and the council, has already agreed to close two day care centres for elderly people, cap high-cost adult care packages and increase meals on wheels and community alarm prices, to cut £8.4m from its budget, but it must still find another £9 of savings this year.
Responding to the concerns, Ms Freeman said: “This is a deficit that needs to be addressed by NHS Fife and Fife Council.
“Together with COSLA, we’re engaging with them and the IJB to support their plans to systematically reduce the deficit without reducing capacity by redesigning services and delivery and investing in quality, sustainable care.”
The minster rejected claims the health board and the council had already bailed out the IJB, adding: “This is a deficit Fife Council and NHS Fife bequeathed to this IJB before it even started.”
Mr Rowley claimed Ms Freeman’s position was unacceptable.
“It is not acceptable for the SNP government to simply blame NHS Fife and Fife Council given the financial pressures they are currently under,” he said.
“The Scottish Government last year wiped out the debt of a number of health authorities and yet in Fife’s case they are saying the only way to address the deficit is through redesign of services, which is code for cuts.
“It is clear for anyone to see that Fife Health and Social Care Partnership is struggling to meet the care needs of Fife.”
Mr Miklinski, who is a member of the Fife IJB, added: “Ms Freeman has taken the position that the funding gap is nothing to do with her.
“As far as she is concerned, the gap has to be closed by Fife Council and NHS Fife but the only way to do that is to further cut vital services.
“There is no reason why Fifers should suffer further cuts to services…just because the Scottish Government refuses to pay what it owes.”