THE Health and Social Care system is at ‘breaking point’ because of austerity, a North Ayrshire councillor has warned.

This is after a cash injection of £1.4 million – given by NAC from its Challenge Fund to the area’s Health and Social Care Partnership – was used up in just one month.

NAC’s Cabinet agreed to make the payment after the partnership reported an overspend in the current financial year of £5.325m.

However, the move proved only helpful in the short-term, as the HSCP is set to report that the deficit has increased to £5.326m despite the financial support, with another four months of the financial year to go.

Irvine South Councillor Robert Foster, Labour Cabinet member for Health and Social Care, says it’s now a matter of life and death.

He said: “Analysis of Health and Social Care budgets across Scotland shows the impact of austerity on health and social care services.

“Even where Councils have increased their contribution to Health and Social Care, like we have here in North Ayrshire, the fact is that austerity has stripped money out of our health system for years and we are now struggling to meet demand.

“Only weeks ago, the Labour administration agreed to divert £1.4m of funding into reducing delayed discharging, which was pushing much of the Health and Social Care Partnership’s overspend, but despite doing that demand has increased again and the overspend has crept back up.

“We do all the right things – increase our funding contribution, provide funding for transformational change, shift resources to tackle crises that local people face with waiting times – yet it’s not enough to meet demand.

“There needs to be an assessment of need in every local authority area and then the political commitment that funding to service that need will be provided. It is the only way to save our Health and Social Care system from breaking point.

“Everyone knows that the Tories are wedded to austerity and have cut Scotland’s budget. However, the SNP are not using the powers of the Scottish Parliament to offer an alternative.

“This is now a matter of life or death and it needs to end.

“NHS Ayrshire and Arran are projecting a deficit of up to £38m by the end of this financial year despite making millions of pounds of cuts in recent years. If nothing changes then the budget shortfall will run into the hundreds of millions in 5 or so years.

“North Ayrshire Council are projecting a £45m funding gap over the next two years and a £156m gap over the next decade.

“Unless the Scottish Government changes course our health service will be completely broke. The Council, the Health and Social Care Partnership and the Health Board can all do their best to mitigate the impact on users but the reality is you cannot continue with this level of financial pressure without services being slashed. It’s time our MSP’s, and indeed MP’s, understood that and stepped up to the mark and started providing our public services with the resources they need.”

West Scotland Conservative MSP Jamie Greene said Health and Social Care has been in perpetual crisis with the situation only worsening.

He said: “North Ayrshire is one area which has been among the worst effected and this is just more evidence of the failings of the Government to afford local councils appropriate funding for appropriate care.

“There is no question that the work of the HSCP is essential. The people of North Ayrshire rely on them for key services like mental healthcare, children’s services, and care for the elderly.

“However, the HSCP’s repeated budget problems is concerning. I believe they are also symptomatic of larger problems within the NHS. Without proper funding for and management of our social services, help cannot reach those who need it the most.

“Simply throwing money at the HSCP is putting a band aid over a much deeper, fundamental problem.

“What the people of North Ayrshire need is change in the way that the Scottish Government manages health and social care. The status quo of constant crisis is simply not good enough.”