Plea To Reduce GP Fees For All Rejected

An attempt to extend the Health Access Scheme to all Jersey residents by 2023 has been rejected.

Around 12,000 people currently benefit from the scheme, with children aged 16 and under from income support households able to see their doctor for free - and households receiving income support or pension plus paying less than they used to.

Deputy Geoff Southern said it should apply to all residents, to make healthcare affordable to all.

He predicted that it would cost an extra £10million, and asked for a funding mechanism to be included in the 2023 Government Plan.

"The new scheme is a great advantage, but it only targets a few people and it targets them relatively efficiently because the income support means-test is clearly laid down and easy to administer.

However, that means it gets to something like 12,000 individuals, including children. That group is financially vulnerable, there are also groups who are clinically vulnerable and socially vulnerable, and that includes children in general.

The demand on the HIF (Health Insurance Fund) and the demand for medical care will continue to grow. The elderly for example, many of whom have an increased need for medical treatment as they age, those with chronic or multiple health conditions, children who have the right to access under the United Nations Convention, and there'll be significant numbers of families just about managing who are just below the threshold

For those families, often enough, £45 for a hospital visit is something that puts them in hardship.

The way forward, I believe, is that we do away with a means-test and make this a universal benefit. This will be the single most effective way of improving people's standard of living and their income equality that we could possibly do and I would hope this assembly would do that."

Deputy Southern has campaigned for vulnerable patients to get cheaper GP consultations, which led to the Health Access Scheme being created.

The Council of Ministers said it 'strongly opposed' extending it to everyone.

They've promised to undertake a major review into health costs and schemes next year, with plans brought forward in 2023 to implement in 2024.

Social Security Minister, Deputy Judy Martin, called his proposal 'lazy'.

"Nobody has consulted with the doctors, Deputy Southern has had a coffee with a doctor, they're not biting the hand-off for this scheme.

They do it for low-income (families), and that's because we did a very tough negotiation, we got the deal for the people, children we could have done half-price but no, do children free.

If you bring this scheme in, all children in Jersey have got to be free. Another argument, this will have to be funded.

If you want to start giving an ordinary resident, and that is someone who comes off the plane or the boat today, and says I'm living here now, that is an ordinary resident.

Then, you're going to say to the rest of the population, or some because tax is what it is, you're going to pay for that, but you'll get a cheaper doctor as well.

Many will say, well I like going to my doctor, I like my doctor, I see them when I like and I can afford to pay that.

Deputy Southern has done two sides of A4 and says there are 22,000 people that probably need more help, let's give it to everybody, I can't work it out and I've got to probably lodge this and I've got to get it in and I'll make the argument in my speech.

He's made no idea where the money is coming from, somebody will pay."

That part of the proposition was rejected by 31 votes to 15.

Deputy Southern also asked for the Technology Fund to be reduced from £20million to £7million, which was also rejected.

He did succeed in getting the Health Minister and Social Security Minister to abandon their plans to scrap the Health Insurance Fund by 2025, while 'a full review of future health costs across all areas' is completed.

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