The government is sending out a questionnaire to 1,000 islanders asking their opinions on funding for future healthcare. Basically it is telling us that we are going to have to pay more for our healthcare in future and asking us how we would like to pay for it.
The survey comes at just the wrong moment for the government. The Health Minister will be presenting Proposition P/19/2023 to the Assembly on 23rd May, asking approval for an expensive Interim Healthcare Board to oversee secondary healthcare services. The costings for this are £755,000 over a three-year period.
This sum comes on top of the £800,000 this year for the Turnaround Team which is investigating secondary healthcare systems in the island. Why do we need a new board before the Turnaround Team has finished its work or reported its findings? The two boards will eat up the £1.5 million in the government's 2023-2026 plan to support Health and Community Services Turnaround. Aren't there more important needs in HCS than management boards? At the moment there are more managers (185) than overnight beds (150) in the General Hospital. Do we need any more? Shouldn't we at least save the £755,000 until the Turnaround Team has presented its report?
Proposition P/19/2023 will be debated in the Assembly on 23rd May but the Health Minister is already at work setting up the new Interim Board. The Chair of the Interim Board has been appointed and job advertisements for the five Non-Executive Directors are already on the government website under Jobs in Jersey. Is the vote in the Assembly just a rubber stamp then, if the Health Minister has all this set up already?
Hopefully not. The 36 pages of this Proposition raise plenty of questions. For a start the costing figures are confused. Are the NEDs to be paid £15,000 a year, or £13,000, as listed in the job advertisements on the government website? Are the 2023 figures on page 19 of P/19/2023 (Section 53) half-year or full-year figures? And what about the heading for Section 53; "financial and staffing implications include:" What then do they not include?
Political control of the Interim Board is another question that should be raised. P/19/20223 will effectively give more control over health to the Health Minister and less to the Council of Ministers. Setting up an unelected board outside the health department (or any department), and further away from political control, sets a dangerous precedent. With health accounting for 20 per cent of the budget, and with the Health Department £13.2 million in the red last year, shouldn't the Council of Ministers be taking more rather than less control?
A detailed review of P/19/2023 see our Bulletin 25 on our website
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