A SENIOR Borders councillor is calling on the local NHS to begin tackling its growing spending deficit.

At a recent meeting of the Scottish Borders health and social care integrated joint board (IJB), which is funded as a partnership between the council and the local NHS board, the IJB revealed it needs to make £11.7m of savings in 2019/20, £11m of which is the forecasted overspend from NHS Borders.

As a result, NHS Borders will again seek a bailout from the Scottish Government, which has covered the NHS’s overspend for the last few years.

Scottish Borders Council convener David Parker, who represents Leaderdale and Melrose, says he is concerned that NHS Borders has not been able to tackle its growing spending deficit and is worried the Scottish Government will not be forthcoming with extra funds.

He said: “The IJB has been running an ongoing deficit for some time now, and the main reason for this is the overspend at NHS Borders.

“It’s been worrying me for a while now, we’ve been telling them for some years now to sort this out.

“What the IJB need to do now is get the council and the IJB together at the next meeting and try to get some confidence about where we’re going.

“The Scottish Government will only continue to provide brokerage if they are satisfied that the NHS has a plan to reduce the deficit, and at the moment, it’s the lack of a plan that’s the problem.

“The NHS needs to get a plan in place before August, because this has been going on for too long. The government isn’t going to write a blank cheque.”

In October last year, NHS Borders received a £10m bail out from the Scottish Government when it cancelled debt owed by the NHS, and has also asked the struggling NHS health board to draw up a three-year plan to achieve financial balance.

And in March 2019, NHS Borders board members were hauled in front of the Scottish Government’s health and sport committee to explain its financial shortcomings.

A report from Mike Porteous, the chief financial officer of NHS Borders, states that the NHS will need to seek brokerage from the Scottish Government again, after being faced with a similar situation over the last few years.

He told the IJB, which last met on Wednesday, May 8, that it will be a challenge to meet the needs of the Borders population: “Delivering financial balance will require the IJB to request additional in year allocations from one or both Partner bodies and for them to be able to make such allocations.

“NHS Borders is currently forecasting a significant overspend in 2019/20 and will require brokerage to deliver a break even position.

“In addition, the partner bodies are able to require the IJB to repay these additional allocations in the following financial year, although neither has invoked this clause to date.

“The requirement to deliver £11.7m of savings in 2019/20 will place a significant challenge on the IJB’s ability to commission and deliver sufficient levels of service to meet the needs of the Borders population.

“The key risk to the IJB is on their ability to deliver strategic change in the context of the forecast financial position.

“There is also a risk that NHS Borders’s requirement for brokerage increases, placing further pressure on services to cut costs.

“At this stage brokerage has not been agreed with the Scottish Government and there is a risk that the full requirement cannot be met through negotiations with them.”