Freeman announces £1.1bn funding boost for health boards and social care providers in Scotland

Health boards and social care providers will be given a funding boost of £1.1 billion to support their battle against Covid-19, the Health Secretary has announced.

The Scottish Government confirmed the move on Tuesday as Jeane Freeman was due to appear before the Health and Sport Committee to discuss health funding in the 2021-22 budget.

Extra funding should be used to cover personal protective equipment (PPE) provision, staffing, enhanced infection prevention or other Covid-19 related needs.

During her appearance before the committee, Ms Freeman also confirmed another funding increase could be made available in January if the need remained.

The extra cash is part of Barnett consequentials made available through spending by the UK Government.

Ms Freeman (pictured) said: “I have confirmed to the parliament today and to you convener that we are making available £1.1 billion for NHS boards and integration authorities.

“This provides boards and integration authorities with funding for additional Covid-19 expenditure already incurred and provides the necessary funding for the coming months, including support for remobilisation, social care, our NHS Test and Protect programme, PPE and hospital staffing levels.”

On the expected funding increase due in January, Ms Freeman said: “In making today’s funding announcement, I am also confirming that we will undertake a further substantive funding allocation in January.

“This will provide the opportunity to better understand the implications of Covid across the sector for the remainder of the financial year and will ensure that our frontline services continue to have the funding they require.”

The Health Secretary said her officials had been working with boards and social care bodies, as well as local authority organisation Cosla, to assess how much would be needed.

Ms Freeman accepted that some boards may feel they need more money than will be allocated, adding that she will listen to any requests made.

Discussing the budget for the next financial year, the Health Secretary said it was “unacceptable” that the UK Government had made the decision to delay setting out its own spending pledges.

She added: “The Scottish budget envelope is tied into the UK block grant set by the UK budget and the UK tax policy.

“A delayed UK budget creates huge uncertainties for the Scottish budget, for our NHS and for social care.

“It’s impossible to plan with certainty without that information.”

Donald Cameron, the health spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives, said he found the criticisms of Ms Freeman towards the UK Government “ironic”, given that public health minister Joe FitzPatrick was unable to tell Mr Cameron the increase in funding last week when asked.

The Health Secretary said: “Mr FitzPatrick could not have given you that figure last week and if it had been me, I couldn’t have given you that either.”

Ms Freeman said that was a reflection on the “thorough way” she and her officials were working with health boards to find out how much was spent in the first quarter of the financial year to come up with the funding boost.

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2020, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Andrew Cowan / Scottish Parliament / PA Wire.