SCOTTISH Borders Council has handed over an extra £3.2milion to the region’s joint health board, following continued concern over the state of NHS Borders’ finances.

The local authority has given the money to the Scottish Borders health and social care integrated joint board (IJB), which is funded as a partnership between the local authority and the Borders NHS board.

At a recent meeting of the IJB, the board revealed it needs to make £11.7 million of savings in 2019/20, £11 million 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.

At a meeting of Scottish Borders Council’s executive on Tuesday June 4, David Robertson, the council’s chief financial officer, told councillors: “I just want to highlight one thing about the affordability of the integrated joint health partnership, and I ask members to note that the IJB received an additional £3.2m from Scottish Borders Council for this year.

“This level of support for the IJB is unsustainable. There is pressure on the IJB to make savings to make it sustainable.”

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.

Scottish Borders Council, on the other hand, made £16.4m worth of savings in 2018/19, £11.6m of which are permanent savings which do not need to be repeated each year.

Now, NHS finance officers face a grilling from IJB board members, as they have been asked to attend the next meeting of the IJB to explain to the board how much progress they have made on the three-year financial plan.

Tracey Logan, the council’s chief executive, said that NHS Borders is still dependent on government bailouts: “The NHS is working on the financial plan for the next three years, and that’s expected to be delivered in the next few months.

“As it stands today, there is no substantive plan to bridge the budget gap, which is not far off 10% of the NHS Borders budget. It’s a gap of about £22m to £23m in their budget, which around £250m, so it’s a massive, massive issue.

“I think from a joint management perspective we are very keen to be allowed to engage with the financial planning at NHS Borders because we are so inextricably linked.

“We can’t separate it out, so if there’s an issue with NHS Borders’ financial planning, then there’s an issue for us.”

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 8 May, that it will be a challenge to meet the needs of the Borders population: “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.”