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Lack of reciprocal health agreement is deterring visitors

Readers' Letters | Published:

WE HAVE been sailing to Guernsey for about 30 years and remember times when the marina was so full you could practically walk across the boats. This doesn’t happen any more and there always seems to be plenty of spare room, even in the school holidays last year.

I have spoken to lots of boating friends about this, and because we are now ‘elderly’ but still enjoying boating, visiting Guernsey is not an attractive option as there are no reciprocal health arrangements with the UK. People now seem to use Guernsey just as a stopping off point through to Jersey, which does have reciprocal arrangements, or France, where the EHICC can be used. I know if we leave the EU this system will no doubt change, but for the moment it is a better option than Guernsey.

As we have aged many of us have ongoing medical problems and taking out health insurance is very costly, also most companies will not cover existing conditions. My husband and I receive ‘visit Guernsey’ texts about three times a week and, of course, you are paying for costly TV advertising.

Is Guernsey ever going to look at returning to the reciprocal arrangements, as Jersey did after initially opting out? Until then I think visiting Guernsey is not an option for many people. Boating people in particular do not tend to take out annual travel insurance as they spend all their time and money on their boats, so I think you are missing out on a large market, particularly people on the south coast who can easily travel by ferry for winter breaks as well.

I would be interested to hear your thoughts.

HELEN WHITTER

Editor’s footnote: the president of the Committee for Employment & Social Security replies:

The UK ended the Reciprocal Health Agreement with the Crown Dependencies in 2009. At the time, the alternative option differed from the original agreement and was not financially viable for the island, so Guernsey did not enter into a new agreement with the UK. While Jersey and the Isle of Man did, the funding models for their health care systems are quite different to Guernsey’s.

Recently, the Committee for Employment & Social Security has been researching options to provide cover for Guernsey and Alderney residents who require medical treatment while travelling in the UK. Of course, one of the options is to negotiate a new Reciprocal Health Agreement with the UK.

Towards the end of last year, representatives of the committee met with visiting officials from the UK’s Department for Health and Social Care about the possibility of establishing a new reciprocal health agreement between Guernsey and the UK. The meeting was positive, and the UK representatives were receptive to our island’s concerns, as well as the benefits to UK residents who wish to visit Guernsey.

We recognise that the UK’s priority is Brexit at this time and that health agreements with other European countries are part of that picture. We also recognise that a new Reciprocal Health Agreement would most likely come at a cost to Guernsey, which would need to be acceptable in the eyes of the Committee for Health & Social Care and the States.

Di Lihou

By Di Lihou
Editorial assistant

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