Scotland’s Integration Joint Boards (IJBs) face considerable financial challenges and immense pressures on their workforce. IJBs have reached the point where significant transformation will be needed to ensure the long-term capacity, financial sustainability and quality of services individuals receive.
IJBs plan and commission many community-based health and care services. Demand for these services is increasing, in part due to demographic change and support for people with increasingly complex care needs. The number of care hours for those aged over 65 reached nearly 25 million in 2021/22. The proportion of care services reporting vacancies increased by 11 per cent to 47 per cent, with a 30 per cent turnover of staff each year.
Most IJBs underspent on providing services in 2021/22. This was largely because of difficulties in recruiting staff, which led to unplanned vacancies, and pandemic-related reductions in service provision. The reductions in service provision were likely to have contributed to an increase in unmet health and social care needs.
In 2021/22 IJBs returned significant surpluses, with reserves doubling to over £1.3 billion. This was mainly due to additional funding received late in the year for specific policy commitments, including Covid-19. The Scottish Government are currently exploring options to recover around two-thirds of the unspent Covid-19 money held in reserves.
Across Scotland, IJBs have a combined projected funding gap of £124 million for 2022/23.
To be financially sustainable in the longer-term, IJBs must reduce their reliance on reserves. All IJBs must put in place detailed plans that clearly show how they will achieve the needed ongoing savings on a recurring basis and support urgently needed service transformation.
William Moyes, Chair of the Accounts Commission said:
Change is needed now - it cannot wait for a National Care Service. Action is needed to tackle funding pressures, which are under increasing stress from rising demand and cost pressures. The workforce challenges are considerable, with mounting unmet need.
We need to see services focus on prevention, with appropriate funding in place to transform the way services are delivered and to improve lives.