Significant financial pressures are putting health and social care services in Fife in jeopardy, a watchdog has warned.
The Accounts Commission said in a new report that efforts to make the situation better are being undermined by “clear ongoing financial sustainability issues”.
Fife’s Integration Joint Board (IJB) – the body responsible for planning and commissioning healthcare in the area – has repeatedly failed to break even and the public spending watchdog for local government forecast another overspend of £10 million this year.
Services provided through the Fife Health and Social Care Partnership, which has a £555 million budget, include social work services for adults and older people, community hospitals, children’s community health services and social care services for the people of Fife.
“Ongoing financial pressures will likely undermine how the IJB will be able to improve vital health and social care services for the people of Fife,” the Accounts Commission said.
Its chairman, Grahan Sharp, added: “The Accounts Commission are seriously concerned about slow progress in Fife IJB and its clear ongoing financial sustainability issues.
“If this persists it will inevitably affect the ability of the IJB and its partners, Fife Council and NHS Fife, to improve health and social care services local people depend on.
“We welcome some recent progress, including permanent appointments to the posts of chief officer and chief finance officer, and a review of its financial strategy.
“Now, as a matter of urgency, these plans must be actioned and delivered on. Above all, a robust financial recovery plan must be put in place.”
Responding to the report, the director of Fife Health and Social Care Partnership, Nicky Connor, said: “Like many integration joint boards, Fife is not alone in facing significant challenges.
“We value the findings from the Accounts Commission report, it highlights the key areas we need to focus on as a board.
“There has been progress made with a new strategic plan for the next three years approved, an integrated transformation board created and a medium to long-term financial strategy is in development.
“There is much more we can do and over the coming months we will be working to progress these.”
Councillor Rosemary Liewald, chairwoman of Fife’s Integration Joint Board, said: “Delivering safe and sustainable health and social care services in Fife is our key priority and we need to do this within a balanced budget.
“The demand on our services continues to increase and to ensure we get the best value, and do this within budget, we will continue to work together with our staff, communities and partners to deliver quality services for the people of Fife.”