Competing statements were issued during this afternoon (Tuesday August 20th) by the Bethesda Trustees and the Integration Joint Board which links Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and NHS Western Isles.

This exchange follows the rejection by the Bethesda Trustees last week of a new deal from the IJB and is part of a dispute over funding going back several years.

The Bethesda Trustees said they “were unable to accept the offer proposed by the IJB as it is putting the organisation at risk and jeopardising the service.”

The IJB replied by saying: “Despite public claims to the contrary, no evidence has been presented that Bethesda is currently an organisation in financial distress.”

The Trustees, in their statement just after midday, said: “The Scottish Government have always wanted to support Hospices and have legislation in place to ensure 50% of the running costs should be met by Health Boards, whilst the other 50% is raised through fundraising.

“Despite NHS Western Isles receiving an increase in their funding each year from the Scottish Government, for the last 11 years NHS Western Isles has not passed on any uplift in funding, despite increasing costs.  In effect, they have not fulfilled their obligations.

“The offer of an additional £10,000 per annum plus a probable 2.5% increase for the following two years is offered on a baseline that is 11 years out of date. 

“In order to ensure the Hospice continues the services, the Bethesda Trustees have asked the IJB to bring their funding contribution up to date and fund the 50% of the running costs as the Scottish Government has always wanted.

“The deficit in the IJB funding is £100,000 per year - £8,500 per month, which is what is required to sustain the Hospice and ensure continuity of services.

“The Hospice is very well supported by the community, but we also need our IJB to support the Hospice or it will not be sustainable for the future."

The Bethesda Trustees went on: "The IJB are well aware that the Bethesda Board requires an additional £100,000 per year to bring financial stability for the future, due to a funding standstill from NHS Western Isles.  The offer of £10,000 per year is unsustainable. The Hospice cannot accept a settlement which leaves it significantly short of funds.

“The additional £100,000 per annum is a nominal amount from an IJB budget of £60m per annum.  This will help to secure a well utilised service for the future.”

In its statement issued in mid-afternoon, the IJB said “it recognises Bethesda is an important partner in the delivery of residential and hospice care within our local care environment. However, we are concerned by the public presentation of ongoing negotiations.

“A projected 10% increase in funding over three years has been offered in support of a new agreement with the Health Board, along with a guarantee to reopen negotiations should Bethesda find itself in financial difficulty.

“Despite public claims to the contrary, no evidence has been presented that Bethesda is currently an organisation in financial distress. It carries adequate financial reserves and we would expect these to be used to address any short-term cost pressures.

“Should the organisation experience a longer term down-turn in its financial health, then we have already committed to further discussion in those circumstances, despite the IJB having to find £5.5m of savings over the next two years.

“We remain committed to a positive outcome and effective partnership arrangements.”