The understaffed health service is 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.

The main upshots from the situation are that more locums are employed at greater expense to the taxpayer and some waiting lists have grown.

A Manx Care spokesman said: ‘Safe staffing is Manx Care’s primary risk.’

When Manx Care launched, it reviewed its services to see how many staff it should have, and how many vacancies it had, as this was unclear.

Manx Care took over from the government’s Department of Health and Social Care, which then ran services directly, in April last year.

It determined that there was a shortage of 92 nurses across the hospital setting alone, alongside many senior doctor, consultant and other professional vacancies, and with a reliance on the use of costly agency and bank staff to fill these in order to keep services going.

In addition, many of these roles are classed as ‘hard to recruit’ vacancies.

A recent estimate highlights a shortage of around 12,000 doctors and around 50,000 nurses in the UK.

Manx Care pointed out that it was competing with NHS trusts across the British Isles to recruit and attract people to the island, from an already very small pool of available people.

‘We accept that addressing and filling all of our existing vacancies will not happen quickly,’ a spokesman said.

‘However, we are taking many proactive steps to do this including working with specialist recruitment agencies, as well as looking to increase training opportunities on-island so we can increase our home-grown talent.

‘This will ultimately reduce our reliance on costly agency and bank staff, where they are available, result in continuity of service for patients – particularly those under the treatment of a consultant – and address Manx Care’s strategic priority to achieve financial health by reducing the amount Manx Care overspends on its wage bill every year.

‘Within the last year, 14 new consultants have joined Manx Care in roles previously filled using locum resource.’

Manx Care’s explanation came in response to a Manx Independent inquiry about cardiology.

One of our staff was supposed to have an appointment on September 14 – but that was put back to May 23 next year.

‘As with many services, cardiology continues to be impacted by the legacy recruitment and vacancy issues that Manx Care inherited when it came into existence on April 1, 2021,’ a Manx Care spokesman told the Manx Independent. ‘Since then, the service has been delivered with a combination of a substantive cardiologist and locum colleagues addressing vacancies, where a locum has been able to be secured.

‘For the last three weeks, clinic activity has been reduced due to there only being one cardiologist available as a result of annual leave and a vacancy.

‘Activity has been prioritised based on clinical review, in order that those in most urgent need of an appointment have been seen. A recovery plan is being finalised to catch up on some of the activity that had to be paused in this time.’

Manx Care, which runs day-to-day health services, says it is ‘working hard’ to recruit staff to the island.

A new cardiologist began work this week and an offer of employment has been made to another cardiologist, who will move to the island once they have worked their notice period in their current role.

This should mean the department is working as it has been designed, with two substantive consultants and one associate specialist in place.

In addition, a number of patients who are on the cardiology waiting list have been offered appointments with Medefer, a private-sector company employed by Manx Care as part of its ‘restoration and recovery of elective activity’ programme to quickly address various waiting lists which have been further exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Medefer provides virtual appointments with a specialty consultant, with any tests that are required being booked and delivered on-island, and then another virtual follow-up appointment after that.

Manx Care says the aim of this work is to diagnose and treat as many patients as possible, supplementing the existing capacity of the team based at Noble’s Hospital, and subsequently discharge them back into the care of their GP.

Patients are only being offered a Medefer appointment if it’s clinically appropriate for their condition to be reviewed and treated using this pathway, and they must give their explicit consent for their appointment to be conducted by Medefer.

A Manx Care spokesman added: ‘We acknowledge that for any patient to have their consultant appointment cancelled or rescheduled can be very worrying, and equally frustrating.

‘Any appointments that are deferred are subject to a clinical triage so that those who are in most urgent need of treatment are seen as quickly as possible.

‘We would urge anyone who has a query over their appointment or a cancellation to contact the Manx Care Advice and Liaison Service (MCALS) team on the phone (642642) or via email ([email protected]) as they will be able to help.’