Cost puts hundreds off from going to see the doctor

THE cost of seeing a doctor led to many Bailiwick residents putting off making an appointment last year, the latest CareWatch primary care survey has found.

(Picture by Shutterstock)
(Picture by Shutterstock)

A household’s financial situation was responsible for ‘some significant inequalities in health and care-seeking behaviour’, it said.

Of the near-2,000 responses from people in Guernsey and Alderney, almost a third had a health concern at the time and a majority of these (59%) said they had not gone to see a GP due to the cost.

The States pays a £12 contribution towards the cost of a doctor and £6 to visit a nurse. The cost of a visit to a GP varies but on average is £56.

The survey also asked if the cost had stopped or delayed people from using other health services, such as pharmacies and physiotherapists, and very nearly half (48%) said that it had.

One question asked if people could afford an unexpected £100 expense and 9% said that they could not, while 29% said that they could, but it would not be easy.

Of those who said they could not, about two-thirds had a long-term illness or impairment, while a similar proportion experienced a large amount of stress.

This group also had the most visits to a GP – five or more – in the previous 12 months (38%). A large majority of that group paid for their own visit to the doctor.

While two-thirds of respondents had health insurance either privately (44%) or paid for by their employer (22%) more than half (52%) paid for their appointments.

People in the 65-74 age group were the least likely to have insurance, as were people living in affordable housing or who could not afford a £100 expense.

Generally, most people (65%) said their health was good or very good, and fewer than 10% said it was poor or very poor.

Just under half, 47%, said they had a long-standing illness, impairment or infirmity and that included 27% who said they have a physical condition or impairment, 20% who reported a long-term illness, and 11% who had a mental or emotional condition or impairment.

One of the other key findings was that a lot of people reported high levels of stress, which was highest among 16- to 27-year-olds (47%) and those aged 45-54 (45%). This fell away dramatically among those aged 65-74 (18%) and 75 and over (13%).

CareWatch interim chairman David Le Poidevin said the survey gave HSC and medical professionals the chance to see the concerns of islanders and how they might resolve these.

‘We at CareWatch hope that this information can be used by all parties to inform the review of these services to ensure all residents of Guernsey and Alderney have the access they need and a service level that truly benefits the community,’ he said.

It was not the group’s brief to advocate for a specific course of action, such as an increase in the amount paid by the States towards a GP visit, he said.

‘We’re not really here to say “this is a problem and this is how it may be resolved”.’

HSC president Deputy Al Brouard said the results had already been discussed by the Primary Care Working Group and would be one consideration in shaping its final recommendations.

‘The CareWatch survey shows that very many households are accessing the care they need, at the time they need it,’ he said.

‘To increase the grant for these households would simply reduce the money available to support those islanders most likely to experience barriers accessing care.

‘There aren’t easy answers, but we need to think about how we better use funding rather than thinking simply about how to increase it.’

n The survey was conducted by Island Global Research in March and April on behalf of CareWatch, the independent community forum sponsored by HSC.

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