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Statement by the President of the Committee for Health & Social Care

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Wednesday 25 May 2022

General Update

Thank you, Sir

A lot has happened since my last statement at the end of 2021. The COVID-19 pandemic and its effects have kept us on our toes and we experienced significant pressures early in the New Year with a wave of the BA.2 variant. Within the PEH this required Critical Care capacity to be split to accommodate COVID-19 patients and other critical care cases, and day to day operational pressures were exacerbated by a high number of medical patients, delayed transfers of care and other seasonal illnesses, all of which has regrettably had an impact on surgical waiting lists. Whilst we need to remain nimble in our approach, an improvement, for the moment at least, to the position regarding delayed transfers of care has been welcomed and this has allowed us to re-prioritise seven beds to support elective general surgery.

Although we are all learning to live with COVID, the challenges across health and social care have been significant and staff have coped admirably with the additional pressures this has brought to their day to day work, at times coping with increased additional demands on their workloads whilst also covering for the absence of colleagues. We must take opportunity to say thank you for their ongoing commitment and support.

I am pleased to say that the number of positive COVID-19 cases in our community is much lower as we head into the summer months and of course emergency procedures are no longer being used to manage the pandemic response. We have seen the voluntary vaccination programme continue to expand, with an offer being made to children and the Spring booster programme is now almost complete for the care and residential homes, the over 75s and immunosuppressed cohorts. We continue to work flexibly as required and maintain small team of staff as the vaccine programme continues to evolve. It is a new service, never envisaged three years ago, created from scratch. Since the first dose of COVID-19 vaccine was given in December 2020, over 155,000 doses have been administered, which I'm sure you will agree is an achievement.

As we start to move our focus onto other initiatives, with your support through the Government Work Plan, HSC - working closely with the Medical Specialist Group - are putting in place the resources needed to tackle the orthopaedic inpatient waiting lists. We also aim to fill specialist roles that will be essential to the delivery of Phase 1 of Our Hospital Modernisation, when this is operational.  We know that when the skills are available and other conditions are favourable, we can make in-roads into the waiting lists that have accumulated due to the pandemic.  A recent decision to expand our service capacity within Radiology to reduce waiting times for MRI scans has been hugely successful and we must take the opportunity to thank our staff for going the extra mile to achieve this. But, as a marker, we know that the demand for health services will increase into the future.

We are very pleased to have received support to progress Phase 1 of "Our Hospital Modernisation" programme. These initial works which we started on site in March will put in place critical infrastructure to support both our existing acute services at the PEH and our plans for Phase 2 of this exciting programme. Over the next two years, we will deliver brand new Critical Care and Post Anaesthetic Care facilities to meet the demands we face in addition to providing a range of additional enhancements including the facilities we can provide for relatives when they are supporting their loved ones within our care.

This Programme, together with our other major transformation activity within Community and the ongoing programme to replace our core patient record system are all examples of how HSC continues to evolve and innovate to meet the demands asked of our services. We thank all Members for their support in respect of being able to undertake this transformational activity and our community for its continued understanding whilst we deliver both our core services and the changes we are making to them all happening in parallel.

Since I last addressed the Assembly, we have seen the introduction of low-cost appointments for children through the redistribution of Family Allowance, improving the accessibility of health and care for under 18s. On 1st April, with your approval, the ability for Islanders to register Lasting Powers of Attorney was introduced; a much-awaited service taken forward with the support of HM Greffier as part of the Capacity Law.

Next month the Committee will present the Commencement Ordinance for the new soft 'opt out' organ donation arrangements, an important development locally as we know that organ donation from one person can help to save up to nine lives. The option already exists for people to register their wishes on the NHS Organ Donation website and while the Committee will continue to raise awareness of these changes, we would encourage everyone to have that important conversation with their families and friends. A Frequently Asked Questions document is available on gov.gg for those who want to know more.

Embedding a programme of Health in All Polices into States of Guernsey policies should consider good health as one of our most important collective assets. Investing in healthy lives is investing in a healthy economy and a fairer bailiwick society. I still have outstanding work to bring this to life for your Committees.

States Members will already be aware that the Committee has taken opportunity to invite Mr David Gedze back to work us in respect of mental health services in the Bailiwick. His remit is to review and report on the progress made against the recommendations of a report he prepared for HSC in 2018 in respect of HSC's acute secondary care services, to gather feedback from stakeholders and to offer his observations in respect of the updated service mapping of mental health services available across all sectors.

During the first of his return visits, Mr Gedze met with a wide range of key stakeholder groups, members of staff working in mental health services and in the Third sector, together with some service users and members of the public, and these discussions have continued during his second visit which has taken place over the last few days. It goes without saying that the Committee is keen to ensure that the work that Mr Gedze is completing on our behalf is robust and provides valuable feedback for us as we move forward.

I hope that all Members who wished to speak directly with Mr Gedze have taken the opportunity to do so, and please, I encourage you to get in touch with Public Health Services who are co-ordinating this work if this is not the case.

The recruitment of high-quality staff across the Health and Social Care Service is a matter that is key to the maintenance of the health and well-being of Guernsey's population. Identifying accommodation for key workers is a challenge for HSC, as it is for colleagues in other areas of the States.

We rely on a workforce that includes people moving to the island for work bringing with them essential skills and housing is a well-known and discussed challenge, both historically and particularly now when there is a such a scarcity of affordable rental properties. While there is no single or simple solution to the identification of suitable properties or land to develop for staff accommodation, we must tackle this issue head on - and at pace - to ensure that we have the resources available to meet the health and care needs of the population. You will have the opportunity to choose, later in the year, when I understand that a Requête will come before us.

With this in mind, I would add that HSC also knows the importance of 'growing our own' and in addition to the now well-established student nurse programme has several initiatives in mind, including efforts to recruit student Biomedical Scientists, Clinical Psychologists and trainee Social Workers.

It is always difficult within the time constraints of these Statements to do justice to a mandate as broad and complex as HSC, I have not even touched on Alderney, the recent outage in IT or the important work that has been happening to review the Children Law. This remains a very busy time, evolving and under constant pressure and I do thank you, Members, for your support to help Islanders.

Thank you, Sir.

 

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