Health dept lags in policymaking, risk assessment

Civil servants in the Department of Health (DH) have raised concerns over its approach to policymaking, its risk-assessment skills and its effectiveness at consulting stakeholders, an exclusive opinion poll for CSW has found.

By Joshua.Chambers

16 May 2012

The poll asked 1,395 civil servants for their “opinion of the civil service’s risk management skills.” In response, 81 per cent of civil servants in the DH said they need “significant” or “dramatic” improvement. The civil service average giving these responses was 59 per cent.

The poll also found that, when asked to name the three greatest obstacles that restrict civil servants’ ability to involve external stakeholders in policy development, 81 per cent of DH civil servants picked “a tendency for ministers to have fixed ideas about the policies they want to see implemented”, compared to a civil service average of 57 per cent.

This finding suggests that ministers may be weakening the department’s ability to develop policy with stakeholders, and another finding also points to fixed ideas among the departments’ politicians: 58 per cent of DH civil servants named “the ability to provide impartial, honest and open policy advice to ministers, speaking truth unto power” as one of their top three “elements of the civil service’s culture, expertise and working methods” that are “vulnerable and need the greatest protection.” The average figure was 35 per cent.

On the positive side, asked to name “the three things that most appealed to you about a career in the civil service before you joined,” the department had the greatest percentage of respondents who named “the opportunity to serve the public and improve the country”: 78 per cent, against an average 51 per cent.

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