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EXPRESS OPINION: Now is the time to reset trust in Health

EXPRESS OPINION: Now is the time to reset trust in Health

Friday 17 March 2023

EXPRESS OPINION: Now is the time to reset trust in Health

Friday 17 March 2023

It’s been coming for some time... and then yesterday, the government confirmed the many rumours.

The Chief Officer of Jersey’s Health service, and its Chief Nurse, are both to leave their posts at the end of this month.

As usual, there is no detail yet as to the exact circumstances, the reasoning, the negotiations or the terms of departure – no doubt much of that will emerge in the coming weeks through media and political questioning, and it is essential that it does.

Self-evidently, there is a major issue here - otherwise why would the two most senior figures, in arguably the most important sector of government, leave in such a fashion?  

On that basis, and despite all the usual restrictive arguments about confidential employment matters, there is an overriding public interest here for sunlight to provide the necessary disinfectant. Without a thorough public examination of exactly what’s happened, how can we have any confidence at all that it won’t be repeated? How can we have trust?

And trust is at the root of this. After years of successive, and deeply negative, reports on facilities, culture, management and in some areas, health outcomes, what trust in this critical service is left? If Jersey cannot get this right, what sort of island will we have?

This is an opportunity for a major reset. Given that the General Hospital will pass a critical line by 2026, it’s the last one we will have. 

I’ve written before that health has become a toxic topic, and that’s despite the skill and commitment of those that work within in it. 

There is no doubt that the decade of dithering over the new hospital project has seeped away confidence and momentum - but the negativity which permeates each report on the health service continually seems to be traced back to culture, leadership, management, facilities, process. All factors which are well within our control.

Remember, Jersey is still the place where doctors routinely use fax machines to send patients’ vital prescriptions to the pharmacies. When did you last send a fax?

hospital back and white

Pictured: the General Hospital will need substantial renovation by 2026.

It would be unfair to lay all the blame for that solely at the doors of the two departing officials  this is structural, and deep-seated – but nonetheless, the twin departure presents the opportunity for the Chief Minister, Deputy Kristina Moore, and the Head of the Public Service, Suzanne Wylie, to act, which was presumably exactly what was intended.

Both have been in their positions long enough now to do that. Both have the seniority, mandate and rationale that they need. 

There is no doubt that major change is needed. There is no doubt that islanders want it done. There is no doubt that these two leaders are in the roles to do it. 

Both now have the chance to make the changes which will come to define their periods in office. If they can’t tackle this, can they ever truthfully lay claim to success?

The time for dismantling the edifice of the previous political regime has ended with these departures, and the time for rebuilding something new has begun.


Health boss and Chief Nurse to step down at end of month

FOCUS: Difficult times for the Health Director General (P8-9)

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