Professionals want details on healthcare plan
HEALTHCARE professionals have cautiously welcomed plans to make it cheaper for children to go to the doctors and the dentist, but have called for more details to be released.
The proposals will see doctor’s appointments for children cut to £25 per visit and all children getting a free annual dental check-up. The changes will be funded through reducing the child’s cut-off age for family allowance from 19 to 18 years old and adding an upper household earning limit of £120,000.
Guernsey Dental Association chairman Paul Frank backed the move.
‘It’s obviously a good plan to help children and monitor their teeth,’ he said.
He said this scheme had been in the works for several years. He noted some parents did struggle to make the cost of check-ups. This would allow them to know if there were any problems, and local dental surgeries would often help spread the cost of any work then needed.
He hoped more details would be released soon.
British Medical Association representative Mat Dorrian said he had also not seen many details of the current plans.
He said in general the BMA always welcomed discussion between healthcare providers and government to ensure there was accessible healthcare.
But it was important to make sure the funding was sustainable and that government was engaging with local surgeries.
If the plan is agreed, Health & Social Care will then need to negotiate with doctors and dentists to agree terms for the subsidy.
It is proposed that the matter be debated in the 19 August States meeting, which is likely to be the last one for the current Assembly, if an October election takes place.
Family allowance is a weekly tax-free benefit payable to people living in Guernsey and Alderney who are bringing up children. It does not depend on income or savings.
It is currently paid for each child aged 19 or under, who is in full-time education, and is £14.20 per week.
Some previous States boards had called for the benefit to be phased out, but the current joint committees have said it is an important source of income for families, especially those on low incomes.
It is currently paid in respect of more than 11,000 children in more than 6,000 families and costs about £8.5m. a year.
Reducing the age limit to 18, rather than 19, would save £320,000 a year, while capping the upper household earning limit at £120,000 for eligibility would save more than £1.5m. a year. Overall, this would save £1.9m. The proposals for the policy would cost £1.7m.
If approved, the scheme will start in September 2021.
Currently the cost of a GP visit is between £53 and £58, while Accident and Emergency costs can vary from £55 to £505.
But this would be cut to a flat rate of £25 for each under the proposals. Subsidising GP visits will cost up to £770,000 each year, while the States would lose about £380,000 a year from emergency department visits.
The report notes that Guernsey fails to provide health care on an equitable basis.
There is limited support by the States for children’s dentistry. These proposals would allow for one free check-up a year for all under-18s, costing £270,000. It is also proposed that £110,000 be paid a year for oral education, which would include the employment of oral health educators.
The plans also include doing more cultural enrichment activities in primary schools. This includes organising for visits of authors, musicians and sports people, creating pop-up museums in schools and organising visits to historic sites.
The report notes that while some young children have access to culture, not all do. This scheme aims to make it universally available. There are currently nearly 4,000 primary school children in the Bailiwick, so allocating £150,000 would allow £38 for each child each year.