Pressure group queries 25% levy on private treatments

A MARK-UP of 25% levied by Health and Social Care on treatments supplied to private patients must be stopped, and clear guidance given on all charges for private care, said the chairman of the group Health Equality for All [Heal].

Health Equality for All chairman Mike Read. (Picture by Pewter Frankland, 31123463)
Health Equality for All chairman Mike Read. (Picture by Pewter Frankland, 31123463)

Mike Read, pictured, has written to deputies and islanders saying he was shocked to discover that this mark-up was added to private treatment.

His letter followed recent questions from Deputy Rob Prow to HSC, asking how the committee was progressing its review of drugs available locally that have been approved by the UK’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence.

Mr Read’s letter also arose after Heal was contacted by a patient who had been denied what would be the NHS-approved treatment for their cancer. This left them with two choices, he said.

‘Accept the free sub-optimal Guernsey treatment or self-fund to receive life extending treatment, but incurring costs that will consume a small pension and force them to sell their modest house.’

He has called on HSC to make a statement at the next States meeting to commit to an urgent review and benchmark of private patient charges.

‘For us this policy is cruelly failing so many islanders, with an unknown impact on our health insurance costs,’ he said.

In a response to questions from Heal and the Guernsey Press, HSC said that currently it would cost £13.1m. to make all Nice drugs and treatments with TAs (technological appraisals) available locally, plus ongoing annual costs of about £5.5m.

The States will have to decide how to proceed when the committee reports back next year.

Concerning funding it denied being ‘opaque’ but pointed out how complex some decisions were. It said information on funding prioritisation was available on its website at gov.gg/fundingprioritisation, as well as information about medicines funded by the States at gov.gg/whitelist.

The 25% mark-up for private services was standard practice in healthcare, including in Jersey and the UK, where some private providers charged even more, it said.

‘The uplift goes some way to compensate for the handling and overhead costs, including the time and complexity involved in sourcing, ordering, receiving, storing and checking the stock as necessary, and reflects the investment by Health & Social Care in the stock of the drug, the risk of it going out of date or the patient stopping treatment,’ said the committee.

It was not intended to generate a surplus, but to recover a proportion of these operating expenses.

As set out in its States-approved Partnership of Purpose. HSC intended to transform its services and one of its key aims was ‘to ensure fair access to care by removing financial barriers that prevent islanders from accessing the help that they need. This applies to all service areas provided by HSC and its partners and, of course, has to be done within the fixed budget allocated to the committee’.

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