Rob Callister sacked as Isle of Man Health Minister claiming he 'didn't get a fair opportunity'

In an open letter, Mr Callister wrote that he 'went into this department with one hand tied behind my back' due to 'ongoing and unresolved legal issues'. Credit: Isle of Man Government

Rob Callister has been sacked as the Isle of Man's Minister for Health and Social Care after just under eight weeks in the position.

He's been asked to 'step down' from the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) by the Chief Minister, Alfred Cannan.

Lawrie Hooper has been re-appointed to the role, while also remaining as the Minister for Enterprise.

In an open letter, Mr Callister wrote that he "went into this department with one hand tied behind my back" due to "ongoing and unresolved legal issues".

Following claims that three DHSC members called him 'incompetent', he said: "I absolutely refute those comments."

He also said the morale within the department was "amongst the lowest I’ve witnessed in any department over the past six years".

The Isle of Man Government is made up of eight ministers, led by the Chief Minister. Credit: ITV Granada Reports

In a statement, Alfred Cannan said: "The DHSC and our health and care sector more broadly, are facing a set of complex challenges.

"After a number of discussions in recent days on these operational and political challenges, I have reluctantly concluded that the DHSC needs a different approach at this critical juncture."

He continued: "I have therefore asked Rob to step down as Minister for the department. I have asked Lawrie Hooper MHK to return to DHSC as Minister given his previous experience with the department. Lawrie will also remain Minister for Enterprise.

"I expect that Rob’s hard work, experience and drive will see him back contributing in the near future."

Mr Callister is the third Minister to leave the Council of Ministers during Mr Cannan's administration which started in October 2021.

It follows David Ashford resigning as the Treasury Minister in May 2021 and Tim Crookhall resigning as the Enterprise Minister in July 2021.

He was appointed to the Council of Ministers on 16 September 2021.

Rob Callister's open letter to the Chief Minister in full:

Evening Chief Minister (Alf), 

Department of Health and Social Care

I would like to start by thanking you personally as the Chief Minister for giving me the opportunity to join the Council of Ministers as the Island’s Health and Social Care Minister.

You will know from our initial discussion back in September when you invited me to take up this important role that originally I didn’t feel the department was right for me or suitable for my core skill set. 

However, over the past few weeks I actually came to the opposite conclusion very quickly. This is mainly due to receiving and responding to hundreds of emails, messages and letters from concerned residents across the island requesting vital help or support, which in turn reinforced my own commitment to do everything I could to improve the island’s health and social care within this administration. 

Looking back over the past couple of weeks, I certainly feel I went into this department with one hand already tied behind my back, especially with no CEO in post, ongoing and unresolved legal issues, significant department vacancies and although the remaining officers in the department were very polite, friendly, professional and supportive, administrative mistakes were common and morale amongst some officers within the department was amongst the lowest I’ve witnessed in any department over the past six years. 

All of these points were raised with you directly as the Chief Minister and with the Chief Secretary very quickly once I took up the position of Minister. This also included various face to face meetings, in order to raise these concerns further and to get the department vacancies filled as a priority, along with looking at other ways of improving the overall morale within the department. 

On top of all of that I had a political team who were challenging and unsupportive, and at a time when all three department Members should have been fully aware of the fragile position that the department was in, especially in the absence of the Chief Executive for the first couple of weeks. 

As for the comments by the three DHSC Members that they felt I was incompetent, I absolutely refute those comments and I am also certain that the seven Ministers I have supported over the past six years, along with many of the departments I have represented, would disagree on that point as well. 

Not being able to answer questions on administrative errors by officers within the department in respect of legal documents submitted and the authorisation of a press release around a CQC report is not incompetence, but it does highlight internal failings of policy and procedure. 

As the Minister, once these errors were identified and I was able to sit down with the Chief Executive, I was able to request changes and improvements to various internal procedures for dealing with correspondence, press releases and board papers, along with ensuring the political Members were aware of their own areas of responsibility. 

With regard to considering my position after our initial discussion yesterday, I have no wish to put additional pressure on you as the Chief Minister, but I cannot with good conscience tender my resignation as I feel there is no evidence of wrongdoing on my part as the Minister, and I do not believe I have been given a fair chance to make the necessary progress within the Department in the few short weeks I have been in post.

I would therefore politely request you to allow me to continue progressing the work we have started to fill the vacancies and increase staff morale within DHSC, and look at the work undertaken with Manx Care and with the Transformation Board, in order to help improve the health and social care services for the people of this island. 

Please take this correspondence as an “open letter” and some or all of the contents could be shared in the future. 

Kind regards 

Rob Callister CMgr, FCMI, MICA, Dip.(ITM), MHKHouse of Keys Member for OnchanMinister for the Department of Health and Social Care

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