Dr Nigel Minihane, a former head of the GP group the Primary Care Body, said he had decided to speak out in a personal capacity after reading Saturday’s JEP, in which senior hospital clinicians revealed that a lack of qualified nurses had recently forced the cancellation of all but urgent and emergency surgery.
The doctors also described a toxic relationship between medical staff and senior managers at the Hospital, alleging that senior managers were not listening and that they had repeatedly failed to act.
Against a background of management secrecy, they talked of increasing anger that money was being spent on managers who knew nothing but the NHS way of doing things, had job titles that no one understood and were not actually needed – and not medical staff. They also claimed morale had hit rock bottom. One said: ‘Management have failed to address this for years. It is now at a critical point. We are at the emergency stage now. It reached crisis point a couple of weeks ago and we cannot see when it will improve significantly.’
In a letter published on page 12 of today’s JEP, Dr Minihane echoed many of their concerns and frustrations. He said that plans by the government, to bring in more care in the community as part of the Jersey Care Model reforms, were being pushed through with no promise of extra funding for GPs who would have to provide many of the services.
And yet, he writes, there is consistently more money for the recruitment of managers and to spend on IT systems with spiralling budgets. ‘JCM investment in primary care is not evident to date,’ he says in the letter. ‘Of the tens of millions of pounds outlined the first tranche is set to support IT and employment of, we are given to understand, 17 managers.’
He adds: ‘In the most recent cross-examination by Scrutiny, there was an admission that some existing hospital funding would, appropriately, accompany transfer of services to the community but the details remain obscure. If that is the case, however, I presume the JCM funding is not intended to support or develop any existing primary care services, despite the increasing difficulty patients are experiencing seeing a GP and an evolving recruitment crisis.’
Dr Minihane explains that ‘there is now a 12% GP vacancy rate with few people coming forward to fill the posts’.
‘So, just at the time there is a plan to move care to the community, we will not have the staff, doctors or nurses to oblige,’ he says.
After being approached by the JEP for comment about the ongoing issues last week, Health Minister Richard Renouf yesterday issued a statement saying: ‘The morale of Health and Community Services colleagues is incredibly important to us and there are a number of programmes under way, including a package of wellbeing support delivered by a multi-disciplinary team, the appointment of two dedicated staff for counselling and therapy, a number of trained mental-health first-aiders, and a series of wellbeing activities for our staff. Work is under way to respond to the findings of our Be Heard Staff Engagement survey. The themes from the organisation, care groups and departments are being shared through presentations, meetings, focus groups and action planning sessions. Staff are invited to give further feedback, propose solutions and help the senior team plan the response to the survey findings. Two-way communication is also encouraged as part of a major programme of improvement and innovation that is under way across Health and Community Services. There are regular meetings with clinicians, nurses, allied health professionals and non-clinical staff, as we continue to adopt best practices to meet the healthcare needs and expectations of Islanders, working with our staff to achieve that aim.’