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States must back HSC on life-saving drugs – deputy

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THE deputy behind a requete that led to Health & Social Care looking to make more life-saving drugs available in the island has welcomed its plans.

(Picture by Peter Frankland, 25493104)

Deputy Peter Roffey said he felt vindicated by HSC’s review of drug funding and hoped this States would find a way to ensure funding for these drugs in the long term.

HSC announced that it wants to spend £13.4m. in the next two years to make more life-changing drugs available, which would help thousands of people. But there are no long-term funding plans in place.

Its investigation of the issue followed a successful requete placed by Deputy Roffey last December, which itself was the culmination of efforts that began at the start of this term. ‘It is the clear vindication of my long campaign which started as a one-man struggle but which soon attracted the invaluable support of Deputy Jennifer Merrett,’ said Deputy Roffey.

The requete was amended to allow for an independent review to take place, rather than simply committing to funding the same range of drugs as the NHS.

HSC said that of 480 current National Institute for Health and Care Excellence Technology Appraisal-approved drug and non-drug treatments, 160 are not funded locally.

It said the gap between the drugs available in England and those available in the Bailiwick was now unacceptable.

‘I was always sure that any in-depth examination would conclude that we simply had to end the scandal where patients on a hospital ward in England who were from the UK, Jersey or the Isle of Man could be put on the consultant’s preferred drug regime but the “Guernsey patient” on the same ward could not as the island wouldn’t agree to fund it,’ said Deputy Roffey.

‘At the same time it was obviously crucial that those who remained on-island for treatment should be treated equally with those referred to the mainland.’

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He said that when he first asked questions about the island-restricted drug white list ‘the powers that be’ were dismissive. ‘And more neutral deputies would tell me that they “simply didn’t believe the situation could be that bad”.

‘Well it is. That has now been realised, and steps are being taken to address it.’

One of the key things now was to decide how the £13.4m. bill was going to be met.

Deputy Roffey accepted the need to phase in the improved access to treatments, not so much for financial reasons but more because of the pressures that the new regime was likely to put on hospital departments such as pharmacy and oncology.

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Could the island afford it was the next question, he said. ‘I hope most residents will accept that providing a proper range of treatments for islanders when they become seriously ill is such a core responsibility of government that the questions becomes “how can we afford it?” instead.’

This is set to require a big increase in health funding and that will require either raising more revenue or cutting spending in other areas, possibly both.

‘What I sincerely hope is that this Assembly identifies how the required more-generous drug funding can be achieved in the long term.

‘Of course it is still conceivable that the States will decide against the extra expenditure involved and opt to retain the status quo instead. If they do, then I will be ashamed to be a States member.’

Mark Ogier

By Mark Ogier
News reporter

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