Thank you Minister and good afternoon.
Yesterday’s announcement about the lifting of social distancing has caught the attention of the UK media.
The coverage speaks of a confident nation moving forward as one.
Of decisive action by a government which acted swiftly to defend the population against a pandemic threat.
Of a small but dedicated health and care service which pulled out all the stops to ensure its limited resources were optimised to manage Covid-19.
And perhaps most of all, it speaks of a concerted effort by the Manx public – willing to do the right thing to prevent a spike in cases and a surge on health services.
This has been the most remarkable journey for us all.
For me, having started in this role just a couple of months before the crisis took hold, it was not so much a steep learning curve, but an unexpectedvertical one!
But the Covid response has been a truly joint effort in which government, health and care services, our incredible staff and the public have all pulled in the same direction.
So, a new chapter begins on Monday. For the majority, the freedom to associate freely with friends and family will be a cause for celebration.
But we must not forget those who have suffered over the past few months, the vulnerable who’ve been shielding, those who have been isolated, lonely, sad or frightened.
They will need our help ongoing. The scars won’t be visible but they are profound. We will be taking into account the potential for increased demand in our planning. For example - a need for mental health support, a delayed therapy which will make a real difference to an individual’s mobility or wellbeing.
There is much to do, and while we have faced one of the most challenging periods in most of our professional lives, I’m under no illusions that we face - today and ongoing - a considerable challenge.
On the positive side, people have become more aware than ever of their own health and personal safety and this in itself may change behaviours for the better.
Covid has delivered a huge ‘nudge’ in this regard.
In DHSC, our focus remains firmly on protecting our patients and service users.
You’ll have heard the Minister stress yesterday that social distancing measures will remain in place in health and care settings, and this includes our residential and respite facilities, and day services.
We have moved mountains to protect the most vulnerable members of the community.
Core, essential services that support and protect them could not, and did not, stop during the crisis. We operated in different ways in some areas, but direct face to face contact continued where it was needed.
By taking great lengths, we prevented an outbreak of Covid-19 in DHSC facilities across the board, and contributed substantially to helping the private sector manage their homes.
This was the right decision and it has paid dividends.
While the virus now appears to be receding in the UK and is all but crushed in the Isle of Man, a re-emergence is not impossible, so we will continue to play it safe, retain precautions, including social distancing for the time being.
This is a transitionary period which we will review on a rolling basis. But looking more widely at the issue of preventing infection spread – Covid or any other virus or bacteria – our focus will continue to be on protecting vulnerable people who use our services.
The use of universal precautions - PPE, good hygiene practices and cleaning regimes will continue to be expected as standard in health and care settings. It is part of the new norm.
The other thing I’d like to mention today as we’re in a ’looking forward’ frame of mind: Transformation.
The project to transform delivery of health and care services was getting well into its stride just before the pandemic struck.
We had begun to explore and explain the concept of separating service delivery from policy and strategy.
Work is under way on the design of an entirely new health and care organisation in the Isle of Man – Manx Care.
Now that we are returning to ‘business as usual’ the work to transform services for the future will become more and more visible.
We have some real ‘gains’ to build on from the Covid response, as we have learned to do things differently, under pressure and at pace.
Whether it’s better use of technology to connect with our patients, more efficient practices, or simply making the absolute best of the resources available, we have learned so much of value.
We will capture this. Some things won’t be the same as they were before: restored, transformed services will provide efficiencies AND better outcomes, where experience has shown they can. And in this we have a long-term ambition to place services where they will best serve the public.
The emergency command structure we put in place for the pandemic has brought together senior managers and clinicians, to deal with a real and present danger.
A clear task-driven focus at every level has served us well, and we have seen divides and barriers – which inevitably appear over time – swept away, as our teams transformed into models of joint cooperative working.
The leadership team is determined to take on board every positive learning from the past few months.
The resumption of health and care services is now well underway; this is being managed very carefully, and it may not be at the speed people expect in every area.
This will improve over time. What we have on our side is a dedicated and determined workforce, who have proved they are the best of the best. Who have risen to a huge challenge and come out on top!
That drive and impetus is tangible when I speak to staff and managers.
Health and care workers have been buoyed by the massive show of respect and admiration for them from the public.
Facilities and resources are one thing. A body of staff whose roles are now more highly rated in society than at almost any other time in living memory, is a much more valuable thing. We will prize it.
So to conclude, I look forward to the challenges ahead with genuine optimism. I know our staff are keen to catch up, restore services, do things differently as they serve our people - and contribute as they always have done - to the quality of life in our community.
Thank you Minister.