Health and education are arguably the two most important pillars of our community. Education, at its best, nourishes identity, ambition and aspiration whilst excellent Healthcare is vital for maintaining a productive and happy population.
The question is whether government is best placed to deliver the key components of these foundations of our community – particularly in an environment with the well-publicised funding challenges that lie ahead?
Does Jersey’s current education system deliver what is needed for our children, our younger adults - and indeed our more experienced populace - wanting to retrain? The challenge here is not to look at how our education system is currently structured but to look at how we can re-invent it to provide, develop and encourage the skills we need for our vibrant and innovative economy.
Furthermore, does the existing healthcare system best serve the needs of the population? There is a considerable amount of work reviewing this essential area but is it too focussed on our centralised hospital service? Much of the media focus is on how big the hospital will be, how many hospitals we will have and at what level this is viable. Maybe the focus should be on a more flexible community based service, supported by a smaller hospital facility. . Healthcare based in the community would be better placed for both businesses and employees.
If we look around the world, the trends are easy to see. In the US there has been a 20% reduction in people over 65 moving to nursing homes in the last ten years alone. Understandably, people want to stay in their own homes for as long as possible. In order to make this happen, care must be accessible and delivered at the point of need, but, within an affordable structure.
We are all aware of the social and economic issues that will be caused by our ageing population. We also know the related funding problems set to undermine the States’ traditional models of service delivery. Now is the time to look at how business can support these areas which are so key to our success. What models can be established to deliver these services?
We should make better use of our digital technology and online resources to improve our overall health. Everyone should be able to access reliable information about their health and wellbeing online, and through such portals access help and advice in a variety of ways (live chat, email, text and phone).
In the short term there are a number of simple steps that some local surgeries have already taken, such as enabling patients to have the option of booking appointments online, and receive confirmations and reminders by email and text. Where clinically appropriate, we should be making available options to access treatment and support remotely via phone and video calling. Babylon has not worked locally, however we must ask; was it was it really given the support it needed to succeed?
We should be encouraging and enabling patients and GPs to make the most of apps and tools to improve outcomes, including the use of using smartphone apps, to keep track of medications, symptoms, outcomes and to manage overall health as part of an integrated health service. I read somewhere that there are now over 100,000 health related apps out there, clearly there is a need for regulation but with Jersey positioning itself as a centre for digital excellence we are well-placed to be testing and trialing more opportunities of this kind.
With Co-operative Medical Care we have demonstrated the benefits that a socially owned commercial co-operative can bring. The community has reacted emphatically. There has been a stampede towards our much more affordable offer.
Our work will continue to evolve and develop, and raises the interesting question as to how this type of socially motivated model could transfer to other areas within our community. Can joint ventures between parent groups, educators and business create an education system which is both focused on the needs of the student and has the adaptability to flex and change around the needs of the business community and their emerging skillset demands?
As an Island we must think clearly and carefully about the future of our education and health provision. This may include a fundamental rethink of how these services are delivered; including an exploration of the potential roles business can play in delivering these vital elements to our community.