Deputies seek clarity on Covid payments to GPs
DEPUTIES have called for clarity and transparency when it comes to the ‘irregular’ use of taxpayers’ money to provide over four times more funding to one primary care practice than the two others.
Among them is Scrutiny Management president Chris Green.
He said the topic had cropped up in its recent public hearing with Health & Social Care, but that the committee had not yet been given any more information.
‘Given the information that has come to light, we need to have much more clarity and transparency from HSC as to what this money is for and why there is such a big differential between what they’re paying to Queens Road and the other practices,’ he said.
‘From a Scrutiny point of view, we need to get proper transparency and clarity about this, given the sums of money involved and the fact that Queens Road seem to have benefited much more than anyone else.
‘Given the issues and other concerns that exist, we will probably be writing to the committee to request further clarification on the ins and outs of this, because it does seem a little irregular on the face of it – they need to make public what this is all about.’
HSC paid nearly £700,000 to Queens Road Medical Practice in the last three months to provide Covid-19 services, while the other two, Healthcare Group and IslandHealth, received less than half of this put together for the same period and for the same purpose.
Together the three groups established the Covid-19 testing clinic and worked with the care homes hit hardest by the virus, but still not much has been communicated about the deals reached with each practice.
Deputies are pressing HSC to shed some light on what the money paid to them provided, as well as the make-up of these deals.
States members were also appreciative of the efforts of the three primary care practices during the pandemic.
Deputy David De Lisle agreed with Deputy Green.
‘The money spent was without involvement of the States Assembly and this disturbed me as the amount adds to about a million pounds,’ he said.
‘So much for openness and transparency.
‘We have no idea as to why the money was spent and why there was such a large discrepancy between the medical practices.
‘There needs to be accountability of all monies spent for all services paid from the public purse and reported directly to the States.’
Deputy Jane Stephens was more understanding.
‘Providing primary care to the island in a period of stress has been extremely important,’ she said.
‘The potential for the primary care practices to work more closely with HSC, by mutual benefit, has been extremely beneficial to them and their patients during this period of great difficulty.
‘It’s been essential to the community to have these services and I am pleased arrangements were made to have them.’
However, Deputy John Gollop stressed the importance of HSC providing more detail. ‘We have a [Employment &] Social Security committee meeting on Tuesday, so I will endeavour to seek out more clarity on what it is all about.’
Nevertheless, he suggested potential reasons for the figures.
‘Queens Road Medical Practice lost the use of its Longfrie Surgery as it became a hub for people with symptoms relating to the virus before this was moved to the Chest and Heart [unit] at the hospital,’ he said. ‘So clearly a degree of compensation would be necessary for that.’this would explain some of it perhaps.
‘I do know that the States have wanted to have a more developed and constructive relationship with the GPs and that’s embedded in the Partnership of Purpose, and this provides that, but it appears that two of the practices haven’t been able to find the deal they’re looking for.’