Newly-appointed minister Rob Callister has said the Department of Health and Social Care needs to work ‘to fill gaps’ in the health service.

This follows the figure released in the Manx Independent last week which suggested the understaffed Manx Care is currently working with a vacancy rate of 20%.

The organisation, which runs the island’s health services at arm’s length, says the vacancy rate compares with around 10% across UK NHS Trusts.

Mr Callister, who was appointed Health and Social Care Minister last month, said: ‘We do acknowledge there’s one in five vacancies within the Isle of Man’s health service, that’s going to affect delivery of care in the island, so we do need to work hard to fill those gaps.

‘We need to make the island more attractive to attract people to the island to work in our health services, we need to look at areas of trying to train people in the island locally and we’ve also got to address concerns around key staff issues.

‘I’m hoping over the next few months and years people will start to see the health service changing in order to deliver the services they expect.’

Having had responsibility for motorsport and tourism for six years, the Onchan MHK says the next few weeks will be a ‘steep learning curve’.

He added: ‘A lot of people would have thought I’d move into Department for Enterprise but I think it’s absolutely right for a political member to learn new skills. To switch over to something brand new, it will take time and I am very much looking forward to the challenge.

‘I will be working very closely with Manx Care in the weeks and months to follow in order to ensure that they are actually delivering those services that people expect and then we have the transformational board that has the responsibility to bring through the 26 recommendations from Sir Jonathan Michael’s report.

‘Most people’s opinion of the Isle of Man’s health service is good and most people feel they have a good experience when they go into, not just hospitals, but other services and I think that should be acknowledged.

‘However, I think we also have to acknowledge there are areas of concern and that is why we’re undertaking those Care Quality Commission reports, to find areas that need improving.’

Mr Callister feels he has ‘come in at the right time’, saying: ‘We’re undertaking this full review of the island’s health and social care service.

‘I think we have to acknowledge that we will be reading reports that are uncomfortable to read, but as the new health and social care minister I welcome those reports highlighting areas of concern.

‘It’s the only way we’re going to improve the services for the people of this island.’