Over the past decade, numerous attempts have been made by the States of both islands to work together more closely. Senior politicians have spoken ambitiously about opportunities for greater collaboration to save money and improve services. There have been some achievements, but the rhetoric has often run ahead of the reality. Express looks back on the recent history of Guernsey and Jersey working together.
In 2012, Deputy Anne Pryke, then Jersey's Health Minister, said: “If there are any ways we can save money by looking at projects together, this would make sense."
This followed a meeting between officials of both islands at which opportunities for joint working were discussed - in particular, in relation to patients' records and procurement of medical goods and services.
Four years later, this ambition was reaffirmed by Jersey's then Chief Minister, Senator Ian Gorst, who called for “closer collaboration in public health” throughout the Channel Islands.
Pictured: Senator Ian Gorst was Jersey's Chief Minister between 2011 and 2018 and is currently Minister for External Relations.
Speaking to Guernsey's Institute of Directors, Senator Gorst said that, despite some distinctions between the islands' health services, “officers have also identified a number of areas where joint training and knowledge-sharing could reduce the cost and increase the pace of change...the best is definitely yet to come".
Senator Gorst reiterated what Deputy Pryke had wished four years previously - that there are untapped benefits in joint working, such as in procuring goods and services and encouraging healthy lifestyles, which could benefit the islands' people and the States' finances.
“If we work together, we can influence more effectively, have more credibility on the international stage, cover more ground, and use our resources more cost-effectively,” said Senator Gorst.
Another two years passed before the two islands' States developed any concrete plans for joint working on health and social care.
Pictured: Senator John Le Fondre (left) became Jersey's Chief Minister in 2018 at a time when Deputy Gavin St. Pier held the senior office in the States of Guernsey - President of the Policy & Resources Committee.
In June 2018, a Channel Islands' Political Oversight Board was established with a pledge to “work together to share expertise and deliver high-quality services to islanders".
The Oversight Board was chaired jointly by the Chief Minister of Jersey, Senator John Le Fondre, and the then President of Guernsey’s Policy & Resources Committee, Deputy Gavin St. Pier.
Membership of the Oversight Board included various senior politicians and officials from both islands, including the Chief Executives of Jersey, Guernsey and Alderney.
Amongst them was Senator Gorst and the then President of Guernsey's Committee for Health & Social Care, Deputy Heidi Soulsby, who is now the Vice-President of the States' senior committee, Policy & Resources.
Pictured: When the Channel Islands' Political Oversight Board was set up in 2018, IT, training and community engagement were among the first areas of work identified as ripe for joint working.
An initial meeting established priorities where the islands' governments felt that progress could be made within a year:
joint working on policy development, including through joint commissioning of external experts, secondments of policy officials between islands, joint teams, joint island community engagement, joint performance measures and the potential for a joint graduate programme with placements in both islands;
introducing a shadow Channel Islands' Health Authority to promote joint working in health and care, including joint procurement of IT and other operational services, professional liaison, recruitment, shared learning and education, to support improvements to the provision of health and care services in both communities;
setting up a joint digital transformation board to work together on the delivery of technology to speed up online services for islanders;
a formal partnership for public sector procurement, including contract and supplier management, to improve value for money and reduce costs; and
a commitment to sharing data and analytics.
Following this meeting in 2018, it was acknowledged that previous attempts at Guernsey-Jersey collaboration had “generally foundered”, but it was also claimed that there was now progress “on areas such as inter-island sea links, Brexit and external relations, cyber-security and civil aviation".
Pictured: Deputy Heidi Soulsby (left) was President and then Deputy Rhian Tooley was Vice President of Guernsey's Committee for Health & Social Care when health and social care were identified as prime areas for joint working by a Channel Islands' Political Oversight Board.
Senator Le Fondre said: “This new initiative is different, as it is setting specific targets against both islands' government business plans, financial plans and transformation programmes. It is not only championed by both Chief Ministers, but also has the full commitment of our public service leaders.”
In Guernsey, Deputy St. Pier, said: “Today's meeting has helped us raise our ambitions - not just to focus on quick wins, but to transform the way that we work in order to make public services better and to reduce the cost of providing those services.”
The next meeting of the Oversight Board occurred six months later. A memorandum of understanding was signed between Guernsey and Jersey which committed them to working together where possible on common healthcare challenges.
Whilst not a legally-binding document, the memorandum of understanding directed joint working within health services through sharing expertise and clinical resources, purchasing, recruitment and education – especially for nursing.
Pictured: Six years after Jersey's then Health Minister talked enthusiastically about Guernsey and Jersey working together on health and social care, a memorandum of understanding was signed in an effort to commit the two islands' States to greater collaboration.
The next update from the Oversight Board was provided in March 2019. A meeting was held to discuss Brexit, 5G technology, criminal justice and the marine environment.
Jersey's leaders claimed that the “two health authorities are already working together on procurement and resource management, regulation and professional liaison and mutual support".
"This has involved visits from the Chief Nurses, Medical Directors, safeguarding teams, digital teams, procurement teams, hospital modernisation teams and public health teams," they said.
Senator Le Fondre and Deputy St. Pier were upbeat about the health partnership. They said that joint working was helping to establish strong working relationships which should ideally be replicated across other public services areas.
In December 2019, the Oversight Board held a phone conference where the focus was recorded as having shifted from working across a broad range of issues to specific areas: namely, justice, healthcare, policy development and performance reporting.
In healthcare, it was claimed that work was underway to establish single statutory posts across each island and that joint working was bearing fruit through common regulations, sharing capability and capacity, such as in orthopaedic care, and aligning the islands' transformation programmes.
In justice, collaboration between the islands’ prison services was mentioned - specifically through sharing training resources and the procurement of equipment. It was reported that work was underway to share more information between the islands' law enforcement authorities.
Pictured: In 2019, sharing resources in law and order was floated as a potential area for Guernsey-Jersey joint working.
Following the meeting at the end of 2019, climate change was also highlighted as an area of opportunity for the islands to work together more.
And Jersey's leaders said: “Performance reporting and management tools...are being shared in order to enable comparison between both jurisdictions that identifies best practice and successful outcomes.”
Since that meeting in December 2019, the two islands have said little about working together. Of course, this has coincided with the arrival in the islands of covid-19 in March 2020.
But in November 2020, Deputy St. Pier, by then the former President of the Policy & Resources Committee and as close to being a 'backbencher' as it is possible to be in the island's parliamentary system, called for a joint head of the Channel Islands’ public services after Jersey’s Chief Executive left the role.
With a vacancy having opened up at the head of Jersey’s public service, now is the perfect time for both islands to jointly appoint an individual to drive the two public services together.— Gavin St Pier ???????? (@gavinstpier) November 11, 2020
To not lose/take advantage of the opportunity will need determined political leadership.
Pictured: Late in 2020, Deputy Gavin St. Pier suggested a single post to lead the public sectors in both islands.
"Clearly, if the islands are serious about the two public services working more closely together and obtaining the synergies of doing so, then now would be the ideal opportunity to be looking very seriously as to how that could be achieved with some kind of joint leadership role,” said Deputy St. Pier.
"Clearly, there are some significant differences, some of which would be legislative, and there will be culture and there will be history and all the rest of it, but the alternative is that you just carry on as you are.
“To not lose or to take advantage of the opportunity will need determined political leadership.”
Deputy St. Pier's suggestion was not taken up. This month, Suzanne Wylie started her new job - as the States of Jersey's Chief Executive. And in Guernsey, the States are thought to be close to starting the process of advertising for a new Chief Executive as Mark De Garis approaches six months as interim Chief Executive.
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