Deputy Peter Roffey’s amendment to the Government Work Plan called for the Assembly to stick to the timetable agreed by the States in January 2020.
His bid was successful by 21 votes to 17 after he argued that it was a ‘national disgrace’ and a ‘complete scandal’ that Guernsey patients were not entitled to the new-generation drugs that were available on the NHS in the UK.
Phase one of the so-called Nice TA drugs are already being implemented in the island, but the Government Work Plan wanted to establish a delay and further review before more expensive, phase two drugs were made available.
Deputy Roffey said that promises had been made in an almost unanimous States vote last year, and expectations already raised.
‘Overwhelmingly these are modern cancer drugs, so we would be blatantly reneging on a promise made last year to some of our most vulnerable islanders. It’s not so much kicking cans into the long grass, it’s kicking them over the horizon.
‘Meanwhile sick Guernsey people continue to suffer both poor quality of life and to die because we won’t fund the medicines that everywhere else in the British Isles will.’
All the deputies who spoke in the debate stressed that they wanted to see the Nice drugs introduced, but some were struggling with how to pay for them.
Deputy Heidi Soulsby, the vice-president of Policy & Resources, explained that clinicians had come forward with the suggestion to delay and review.
She also outlined that the original decision had been made pre-pandemic in January 2020. Since then there had been two lockdowns and orthopaedic waiting times had risen to unacceptable levels.
She believed that finite resources could be more effectively used on hip and knee operations, where the people waiting were also suffering.
‘Don’t get sucked into the emotion,’ she urged her colleagues. ‘Try to understand the technical side of this, look at the facts and figures.’
The change of heart by some deputies compared to 18 months ago was put under the spotlight, but standing his ground Deputy Peter Ferbrache said ‘our responsibility is to act responsibly’.
The word ‘taxes’ popped up several times, and Deputy Jonathan Le Tocq asked his colleagues to be realistic.
‘Some of us in this Assembly who are going for the amendment will say “but not if it means the sale of our family home in order to fund long-term care, not if it means TRP goes up, not if it means income tax goes up, not if it means GST”.’
Deputy Steve Falla explained what it was like to rely on long-term treatment.
‘I know what it’s like to rely on drugs to stay alive, I’m an insulin-dependent diabetic having been diagnosed 17 years ago and I take insulin three or four times a day, without it I wouldn’t be here.
‘I am lucky that the Guernsey health system gives me what I need, there are many people living on this island with conditions far worse than mine and in need of expensive medication to improve, lengthen or even save their lives, let’s remain aspirational for them today.’