A TRADE union has claimed that “shocking” health and social care cuts due to be discussed in private next week could lead to 400 redundancies and the closure of all publicly run care homes in Argyll and Bute.

Local MSP Michael Russell has asked Health Secretary Shona Robison to intervene and has called for major changes to the management and governance of the Argyll and Bute Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP), which is attempting to bridge a £14 million funding gap.

Trade union Unison, which issued an open letter to politicians and local health bosses after announcements were made to staff, claims one recommendation calls for the privatisation of all home care services provided by the partnership.

Regional organiser Simon Macfarlane said: “Since news of these shocking proposals began to break, Unison has been inundated with members contacting us to express their dismay and fears, both for their own jobs and the services they provide.

“The people of Argyll and Bute know only too well the dangers of outsourcing services. In the last 18 months we have seen independent providers go bust, walk away or be shut down due to appalling standards. It is incredible that against this backdrop the integrated joint board [of the HSCP] is being asked to privatise all home care services.

“We thought the days of privatisation of public services are over in Scotland but it appears to be alive and well in Argyll and Bute. Our open letter states clearly Unison is willing to work together with the NHS and Argyll and Bute Council to find a way forward that saves jobs, avoids privatisation, protects services and delivers an affordable budget.

“We are also clear though that if these cuts progress they will face outright opposition from Unison and we will be calling on ministers to intervene.”

Russell said: “Across the country, health and social care partnerships have faced up to the challenge of change and worked with communities to ensure that services do so too. As a result, in most places the integration of health and social care has produced better outcomes and more effective use of resources.

“But here in Argyll and Bute too much centralised bureaucracy, ineffective, confusing consultations and misguided, and often futile, attempts to force through unacceptable closures have resulted in an ever- worsening financial position.

“The reality is the recurring financial problems facing the senior management and board of the Argyll and Bute Health and Social Care Partnership arise directly from their failure to successfully change and develop what their organisation does in order to match changing need in the area.

“Now, many of those on the front line face losing their jobs as a result of a new set of cuts being drawn up. To make matters worse, the partnership is not being open about what it is planning.

“It has now admitted to keeping secret a document which it intends to in private and which details a terrifying further range of options for more cost cutting,” he added.

“These are believed to include the complete privatisation of all elderly care, the closure of all-day centres, a reduction in the number of midwives and other essential staff and yet more pressure on the most vulnerable such as further reduction of the help available for sleepovers.”

Integration joint board chairman Robin Creelman said Wednesday’s meeting will have both public and private sessions.

He said: “The public care homes proposal is in the private session. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, it’s not in line with our strategic plan and secondly and more importantly, there has been no consultation, staff or public, carried out.

“To discuss this publicly prior to consultation would be wrong.

“Bearing in mind that no recommendation has been made for closure of these homes we felt it would cause less alarm dealing with it in this manner.”

A spokesman for the HSCP said: “No decisions on these proposals have been taken at this time and we will ensure that staff, local communities and other stakeholders are promptly informed of the decision from the IJB.”