Fixers to be parachuted in to Health Department to repair relationships

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AN external ‘turnaround team’ is to be brought into the Health Department in a bid to repair relationships between senior management and clinicians, the Health Minister has confirmed.

Deputy Karen Wilson said she expected to finalise details of a small group of trouble-shooters who would be flown in and tasked with remedying some of the problems identified in a watchdog’s report issued this week.

Comptroller and Auditor General Lynn Pamment highlighted worsening relationships between consultants and senior management that were magnified by having to work in an ‘increasingly challenging system’. In addition to welcoming the report, Deputy Wilson said she had been ‘really disappointed’ to read it.

She said: ‘This [C&AG] report reflects very similar themes as the previous report by Professor Hugo Mascie-Taylor [published in August 2022], which I’m hearing loud and clear.

‘We can’t continue to have a system where managers and clinicians are not getting on – I don’t want to be sitting here in six months’ time and hearing about similar issues. We have to sort this out.

‘There is a requirement for everyone to work together and respect one another, so we can concentrate on the real work that needs to be done, such as delivering care for patients.’

The damning Mascie-Taylor report revealed a series of concerns with management and the working culture within the Hospital.

Deputy Wilson said she would shortly – potentially as soon as the end of this week – be confirming the terms of reference for the ‘turnaround team’ – a small group of external experts who would come in for a set period of up to 12 months and adopt a ‘check and challenge’ approach, focusing on achieving improvements.

The minister said that government chief executive Suzanne Wylie would have direct oversight of line management arrangements within the Health Department, while the States Employment Board would be required to take responsibility for issues around recruitment and retention.

Ms Pamment said that difficulties in recruiting and retaining permanent staff – although not unique to Jersey – had led to an increasingly high number of locum and agency workers being employed.

Deputy Wilson said there had been some encouraging signs of improvements within the department, including a reduction in waiting lists in some areas and positive feedback in a patient experience survey undertaken last year.

Bed-blocking was identified in the report as a major and ongoing issue for the healthcare system, with high levels of patients who were medically fit for discharge but could not be discharged from hospital as a result of a lack of capacity in the care sector. Ms Pamment said this was putting all parts of the Hospital and Adult Mental Health Services under ‘considerable stress’. Deputy Wilson acknowledged that there was an issue around lack of carers and that she wished to focus on making care work a career of choice.

The Jersey Care Federation held talks with Deputy Wilson and Social Security Minister Elaine Millar last week, and has called on the government to provide financial support to bring more care staff to the Island.

Federation chairperson Cheryl Kenealy said that the recent ‘Help at Home’ initiative to encourage Islanders to work in the care sector had not been successful, and called for an investment of £150,000 – using funding originally allocated for Help at Home as part of the government’s fiscal stimulus efforts.

Ms Kenealy added: ‘I’ve got 300 CVs from qualified people who are desperate to come and work in Jersey, have a strong work ethic and could be here within a month.

‘We aren’t expecting the government to cover the entire costs of bringing in staff, but it costs more than £1,000 for someone’s visa, work permit and biometrics – that’s where we have asked for help, but it seems to have fallen on deaf ears.’

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