Fife Council could be responsible for Health and Social Care debt

Fife Council could be on the hook if the local Health and Social Care partnership can’t cover its projected £4 million deficit by spring.
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Fife House

The Fife Health and Social Care Partnership – sometimes called the Integrated Joint Board (IJB) – is looking at a projected £4.171 million overspend by the end of the financial year.

And if they can’t mitigate that figure or cover the costs from reserves, it’s up to both the council and NHS Fife to help out.

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The partnership is a joint Fife Council and NHS Fife group responsible for the management and development of health and social care services. Its annual budget is funded jointly by the council and NHS Fife.

And each year, the council and NHS Fife sign up to the IJB risk share agreement – an arrangement ensuring that overspends will be covered.

“When there’s an overspend, the first step is for the IJB to work with its partners on a financial recovery plan to try to mitigate it. At that point, if no further recovery can be done, that’s when you need to fund the overspend,” Fife Council’s health spokesperson, Graeme Downie (Labour), explained.

The IJB holds reserves that can be used to plug the gap. It can also shift funds around from areas of overspend to help balance things out.

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“There’s lots of steps you can take before you get to the risk share agreement,” said Cllr Downie.

“If IJB doesn’t have a reserve balance or any underspend [to move around], then you go to the partners to provide further funding. That’s the risk share agreement.”

He claims the IJB has already taken “a range of actions” to bring the budget back in line.

The IJB is also holding approximately £8.5 million in uncommitted reserves – which could theoretically be used to plug the gap.

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However, Cllr Downie said there are a lot of unknowns at this stage in the game.

“It’s difficult to say exactly where we are in this process at the moment because the IJB is funded by two separate partners who have two separate budget processes,” he said.

“Looking forward is quite hard.”

According to Cllr Downie, it also not clear how much of the overspend Fife Council could be on the hook for.

However, the latest IJB finance report makes clear that “there will be financial implications” for both Fife Council and NHS Fife “should the Partnership exceed its budget, necessitating the requirement for the Risk Share Agreement.”