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Concerns over high number of rehabilitation staff resignations

Concerns over high number of rehabilitation staff resignations

Thursday 13 January 2022

Concerns over high number of rehabilitation staff resignations

Thursday 13 January 2022


24 members of staff from the occupational therapy and physiotherapy services – a third of the workforce - resigned between January and November last year, prompting concerns about the island's rehabilitation services ahead of a key vote on whether Samarès Ward should be reopened.

As of 1 November 2021, there were 50 Occupational Therapists and Physiotherapists in full time employment at the hospital, with nine positions vacant.

The figures were released following a request under the Freedom of Information Law, which focused on the number of employees within Health and Community Services (HCS) as well as vacancies and resignations. 

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Pictured: A breakdown of the vacancies in HCS on 1 November 2021.

The answers provided by Government show that as of 1 November 2021, there were 353 vacancies across the department, which could mean there was a vacancy rate of 14.2% at the time.

Surgical services, medical services and mental health had the three highest numbers of vacant posts with 63 and 56 and 46 respectively. 

Seven doctors or consultant level clinicians had left by early November. By that time, there were 17 of the vacancies at clinical level, including three in anaesthetics.

Express asked Government for the current number of vacancies but they said this information is not currently available.

Meanwhile, it was revealed last week that around 127 staff out of the Health Department’s 2,485 employees were isolating as a result of contracting covid, causing 20 'elective' operations due to take place this week to be rescheduled. It came after 30 that had already been pushed back.  

In July 2021, several elective surgery procedures had to be cancelled due to staff shortages in the hospital’ theatre suite caused by a combination of staff sickness, annual leave and vacancies.

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Pictured: Clinical vacancies have previously caused the cancellation of elective surgeries.

In August, campaign group The Friends of Our New Hospital Group published a new report criticising both the vacancy rate, and an “increasing” number of health managers. The report said there were currently "31 vacancies (19 consultants and 12 Junior doctors) clinical vacancies. 

Discussing the situation in September, the Health Minister, Deputy Richard Renouf, said there were currently 11 full-time staff vacancies, which represented 13.4% of the team, with many of the vacancies filled by agency staff on a temporary basis.

The figures show that between 1 January and 1 November 2021, 513 nursing and administrative staff were signed off sick – according to the response provided this means they were absent for more than three days. 

In addition, 22 “management grade civil servants” - individuals with at least one other person reporting to them – were absent due to sickness.  

Issues within the department were raised in a report from the Corporate Services Scrutiny Panel published in September 2021 at the conclusion of their review of the Government's culture and HR policies.

The report concluded that there were "various areas of improvement" for the States Employment Board to look at across the civil service, but the Health Department was highlighted as being of particular concern.

Even before the review had been launched, a number of employees from the department had contacted the Panel about issues they had experienced.

Health absences

Pictured: Sickness rates due to mental wellbeing issues rose between 2019 and 2020.

Staff reported to the panel that bullying was often “tolerated” as part of an individual’s professional role or even due to personal relationships, whilst others said power struggles within their team had a negative impact.

The Panel also heard that managers within the department lacked the training and skills to not only lead teams but also deal with their HR responsibilities.

According to submissions made to the Panel, these issues led “numerous consultants, nurses and allied health professionals” to take days off-sick as they cannot face coming to the workplace for fear of being bullied.

Between March and August 2019, 27% of the sickness days taken by employees within Health and Community Services department were related to anxiety, stress or depression, which was by far the largest reason for time off due to illness.

This rose to 35% for the same period of 2020.

While the Panel noted the impact of the pandemic on this figure was unclear, they said the anxiety, stress or depression felt within the workforce during this time may not have been as high if there were no “underlying issues in staff morale and wellbeing”. 

In August 2020, 43% of sickness days taken in HCS were due to anxiety, stress or depression, a figure which the Panel described as “worrying”.

Results from the Be Heard survey leaked to Express also showed that while the majority of Health respondents felt their work to be important of their life and that they can make a valuable contribution to the success of their Government, a large tranche would leave their job tomorrow if they had another position.

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Pictured: There have been numerous calls to reopen Samarès Ward at Overdale.

Meanwhile, the Constable of St. John, Andy Jehan, has raised concerns over the number of staff who left the occupational therapy and physiotherapy services. According to the answer to the FOI, 24 members of staff left in the first 10 months of 2021, with nine vacancies still outstanding at the beginning of November.

At that time, there were 50 Occupational Therapists and Physiotherapists in full time employment in the Jersey General Hospital.

 “A 40% attrition rate in OT and Physio is very telling especially with next weeks debate coming up on [the reopening of Samarès Ward],” he said. 

“I think this emphasises the point I made previously about the frontline staff being let down.”

Next week, States Members will debate whether Samarès Ward should reopen at Overdale to provide a dedicated rehabilitation centre for islanders recovering from stroke and head injuries.

The proposition was brought forward by Senator Steve Pallett, a former Assistant Health Minister, after hearing what he says were many, many stories from islanders who believe the rehabilitation they are receiving is inadequate.

Constable Andy Jéhan previously voiced his concerns about rehabilitation services having “reduced” since the closure of Samarès Ward - a view which Caroline Landon, the Director General for Health and Community Services, rejected.

“Patients are going days without having physiotherapy,” the Constable said. “It’s not the same joined-up team effort. I think the staff are doing their best in difficult circumstances.”

He explained that his concerns and that of islanders are not limited to Samarès Ward, and extend to the Health Department as a whole, some of which he shared during the recent Assisted Dying Debate

“I think we have some big issues there,” he said. “People are very concerned about it and that’s no criticism of the frontline staff.

“There’s lots of people in the hospital who are working incredibly hard to do their very best and we should never lose sight of that. In my opinion, they are being let down by the leadership, both political and senior civil servants.”

The Government has however already expressed its opposition to the proposition. The Health Minister has lodged his own amendment which commits to a “progress report” by 1 March but removing references to the reinstatement of Samarès Ward.

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