Health boss doesn't involve specialists in decision making, says poll

HELEN HARVEY
Last updated 05:00 03/04/2014

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A national survey on the failure to involve specialists more fully in hospital decision-making has thrown up a bit of a serve for Taranaki DHB's chief executive Tony Foulkes.

The survey of DHB staff was conducted by the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS) into how well management provided senior doctors with opportunities for clinical leadership.

And while senior management at the Taranaki DHB came in fifth out of 20 DHBs, when it came to chief executives Foulkes came in last, despite having presented a report to the board on the importance of clinical leadership at the end of last year.

"Naturally I'm disappointed in the reported response from some doctors to one question, and will be working with ASMS to address the perception," he said.

But there was no doubt about the DHB's commitment to the further engagement and leadership of clinicians across the Taranaki health system.

"We have a wide range of mechanisms in place, and approaches taken within the DHB to support engagement and leadership by health professionals in decision-making for the delivery and planning of our services."

This would be very important in the years ahead, as the DHB worked to redesign health services ensuring they were as integrated as possible to best serve the Taranaki Community, he said.

In the survey many Taranaki DHB staff ticked the don't know box, so ASMS executive director Ian Powell put the results down to Foulkes' lack of visibility.

"He's probably less visible in the DHB than other chief executives. There is not a lot of interaction [with staff]. That's something he needs to work at. I don't think he is opposed to clinical leadership, some chief executives are indirectly hostile. I would not put Tony in that category."

Taranaki was one of the better DHBs, he said.

Having specialists involved in decision-making wasn't a luxury or a nice-to-have but an essential part of a safe modern health system, Powell said.

"It's a no-brainer to involve a highly skilled professional and committed workforce in leadership decisions about the services they then have to deliver."

The broader political failure to invest in the specialist workforce had resulted in entrenched shortages that have become the norm in the health sector, he said.

"One of the consequences of this is an increased workload for senior doctors and less time to get involved in anything else."

The first ASMS survey was done in August and September, and found that 63 per cent of hospital specialists did not have enough time to take part in clinical leadership activities.

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The second survey carried out at the end of last year aimed to better understand the performance of individual DHBs, chief executives and hospital managers on the issue of clinical leadership.

- Taranaki Daily News

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