Drugs debate an echo of times past

Guernsey Press Comment | Published:

ONE of the tricks of former administrations, particularly close to an election, was to make major policy decisions without deciding how they would be funded.

There is an echo of that in the debate on drugs and treatments on Wednesday.

States members are being asked to balance two very different types of costs, the human and the financial. The stark reality is that a line does have to be drawn in what is made available - and some people that would benefit from very expensive treatments available elsewhere will not be able to get them in Guernsey.

Policy & Resources has given the clearest indication of what fully funding all Nice approved drugs will mean to the taxpayer - a 50% hike in property tax or 1% on the headline rate of tax - but no-one has come up with a firm solution, leaving it in the too awkward drawer.

HSC’s policy letter only proposes a short-term funding solution for the first two years of a staggered introduction of new drugs, dipping into general revenue, and passes the buck to the next Assembly to come up with the at least £8m. a year extra needed.

There can be no turning back a decision made to support the first two years of the programme, taking life enhancing treatments away from people once they have begun would just not be acceptable.

On the same agenda is a report from P&R about the financial pressures that are building with major policies still coming through. It proposes yet another review of taxes to report by June 2021.

That will provide an answer to the question being left by HSC and the many supporters of changing the drugs policy, but the public is wary of the States grabbing for extra revenues when they have yet to show their own house is in order or that real prioritisation has taken place.

States members will ask themselves this week whether it is better to hold off until the money has been found and that prioritisation has taken place, or whether the benefits to patients’ lives far outweighs that. These are not life saving drugs and treatments, but they will make a significant difference.

Nick Mann

By Nick Mann

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