States exposed by unfunded health promises

THIS States gained election last October knowing that they would face many tough decisions over the next five years.

Few will be tougher for them to address than a couple quietly slipped away in the 268 pages which make up the new Government Work Plan policy letter and appendices.

Both the adoption of NICE TAs drugs and Equal Pay for Work of Equal Value are emotive issues.

The new GWP proposal doesn’t stop the current range of NHS-approved drugs being available locally, at a cost of some £5m. a year, but would stop its extension to more expensive treatments, which carries an annual price tag of £8m.-plus.

Difficult to reject, but even more difficult to say no, especially seeing that the previous States agreed, all-but unanimously, just 17 months ago, to unfunded proposals which threaten to continue to cost the exchequer millions each year.

But what price do you put on a life, or a quality of life? That is the question which haunts any official faced with an opportunity to offer life-saving treatment which blows the budget. Critical for the patient, an almost impossible quandary for the authority, unless someone else takes the financial hit. It’s one every politician wants to say yes to.

P&R warns that the annual revenue cost of this will increase outside of the States’ control, and will deplete the Health Service Reserve.

It seems to be calling for a separate debate on healthcare, and the availability of treatments and drugs. ‘It would be prudent to consider which health policy options will benefit the community most.’

The alternative is that islanders will be paying more for their health service in tax, which P&R says will ‘likely impact on the wider determinants of health for many’.

Should we accept inferior medical treatment by virtue of being a small community, largely cut adrift from the UK and National Health Service?

The States agreed last year that’s not palatable for an ‘advanced’ community.

But the vote from last January demonstrates the folly of such major decisions being made without a commitment for funding, beyond a vague threat of tax increases.

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