‘Not as simple as increasing the grant’

AN INCREASE in the £12 grant paid for GP visits could lead to the States being unable to target resources at households that most need additional support, Health & Social Care president Al Brouard has said.

HSC president Deputy Al Brouard. (Picture by Sophie Rabey, 30859862)
HSC president Deputy Al Brouard. (Picture by Sophie Rabey, 30859862)

Responding to the newly-published CareWatch primary care survey, Deputy Brouard said that the States had already acknowledged that an alternative to the grant needed to be considered.

The survey showed that the cost of seeing a GP was the biggest barrier to people booking appointments.

A grant for all islanders was introduced some 30 years ago, said Deputy Brouard, pictured.

It is currently £12, while the average cost of a GP visit stands at £56.

‘It was reflective of the environment of its time and was premised on wider changes to the health and care system which weren’t progressed,’ he said.

‘The grant system has continued over the intervening years and continues to help partially offset the price of appointments.

‘However it hasn’t kept pace with rising costs, and this means that the percentage of the appointment cost covered by the grant has decreased significantly.’

While such universal grants avoid the complications and expense of means testing, simply increasing it would not allow the States to target the households that most need additional support.

‘It also doesn’t consider the finite resources that we’re working to and the need to use these to best effect.’

There was no easy answer, he said, but consideration needed to be given to how to use the funding better rather than just increasing it.

A long-term approach to working with and funding primary care is being considered by a Primary Care Working Group which was been set up between HSC and Employment & Social Security, and the CareWatch survey arose following engagement between the group and HSC.

Proposals are set to come before the States later this year that will aim at addressing affordability while laying the groundwork for wider change in the future, said Deputy Brouard.

It is an action point within the Government Work Plan.

Action had already been taken, with the introduction of low-cost appointments for under-18’s earlier this year.

‘We’re monitoring the impact of these changes, but we know from previous surveys that families were particularly affected by the costs of accessing care.

There was no evidence that people putting off seeing their GP had led to worse health, he said, but ‘as an organisation, we wouldn’t want anyone waiting longer than necessary’.

‘Receiving care at the right time and in the right place is important and is central to the Partnership of Purpose.’

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