“UNSEEMLY friction” between health chiefs and Argyll and Bute Council is causing problems for the future of health services in the area, a former MSP has claimed.

Mike MacKenzie, an SNP ‘list’ MSP for the Highlands and Islands between 2011 and 2016, has also claimed that the area’s health and social care partnership [HSCP] is trying to cram too many services into too few buildings as a result of “ill-conceived plans”.

In an email to Councillor Kieron Green, chair of the HSCP’s integration joint board [IJB], Mr MacKenzie also accuses the partnership of delivering “the opposite” of well-planned and efficient services.

The correspondence was part of a debate on the future of facilities in the Oban area.

Mr MacKenzie’s email, sent last week, has been shared on social media by Helensburgh and Lomond SNP councillors Lorna Douglas and Iain S Paterson.

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Mr MacKenzie said: “I note that you blame the IJB deficit on inadequate funding provided by NHS Highland and in turn blame this on the NRAC [NHS Scotland Resource Allocation Committee] formula.

“You must know that this is an incorrect assumption since health boards are not bound by the formula and may direct their financial resources towards local priorities.

“It would seem therefore that the difficulties being experienced by the IJB are the result of unseemly friction between NHS Highland and the council.”

“I can see that this will present you as chair with problems, not least in being open to accusations of an irreconcilable vested interest.

“This highlights a further similar problem since your primary duty is to your local constituents many of whom are service users of these two facilities. It seems to me that your elderly constituents and those with disabilities should be your first and highest concern.

“The corporate interests of the council and of the IJB should not be prioritised over those of your constituents.”

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Mr MacKenzie then added: “What you are attempting at the moment is to cram too many services into too few buildings.

“The result will inevitably be chaotic and will affect all the services that are subject to the IJB’s ill-conceived plans. It is a real pity that we have recently seen perfectly good public sector buildings demolished.

“The public and most importantly service users have a right to expect well planned and efficient services. What we are getting it would appear is the opposite of this.”

Councillor Green responded: “The HSCP has a duty to provide health and social care services in Argyll and Bute as delegated from NHS Highland and Argyll and Bute Council, but also to deliver these within the funding given.”

“Using the national estimates, a gap of one per cent, or around £2 million, would be seen in health funding and 2.7 per cent, or around £1.5m in social care services.

“Combined, this would mean a £3.5m gap between funding and forecast spending based on demand. This doesn’t include assumed operational savings based on integration which would be over and above this.

“I welcomed the balanced IJB budget approved this year, which included £6.8m of savings.

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“However, with such a large budget gap it is inevitable that there would be impacts on front line services despite the best efforts of officers and the IJB to minimise these.

“We have, of course, recognised the value of public and staff engagement as part of any planned service changes. We would not attempt to proceed regardless of the effect on vulnerable members of the community.

“However, neither can we ignore the financial situation being faced.

“More funding would of course be welcome, however, I do not feel there is any evidence that NHS Highland or Argyll and Bute Council would be in a position to contribute this without increases in funding from the Scottish Government.”