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Reduced GP fees for the vulnerable?

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VULNERABLE Islanders could benefit from reduced, or even free, GP visits next year, if States Members approve proposals.

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Health Minister Richard Renouf has agreed to a timetable for developing and lodging a scheme to reduce fees for some Islanders – although details of the potential proposals are still to be confirmed.

Deputy Geoff Southern lodged an amendment to the Government Plan which would have reduced the cost of a GP visit to £10 for pensioners, children under five and those on low incomes, which was defeated by 25 votes to 19 in November.

The Reform Jersey politician came back with a standalone proposition calling for Deputy Renouf to ‘identify and prioritise’ which groups most need affordable access to primary healthcare in Jersey.

Following discussions between Deputies Renouf and Southern, the minister said he would support the proposition, which is due to be debated in February. If that proposition is passed, Deputy Renouf will then table a fresh scheme for debate in September which, if approved, would come into force on 1 January 2021.

Deputy Southern said: ‘I am really pleased. It is really good news that we have got somewhere with this.

‘The agreement is now that the decision about who will get reduced fees is with the Health Minister, who will then come up with a scheme that goes before the States in September.

‘We don’t know what groups will be included yet but it could contain free GP appointments for some people.

‘There are people who are chronically ill and need to go to the doctor a lot and the costs go through the roof and they just can’t afford it.

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The Health Minister said making progress to help vulnerable Islanders with GP costs made sense.

He added: ‘I am pleased to commit to progress the aim set out in the Government Plan to assist the financially vulnerable who need help to access GPs.

‘This makes sense in that accessing primary care services in a timely way will help avoid health problems worsening.

‘I look forward to working with all States Members in making this happen. This is all part of the work on the Jersey Care Model – which received an enthusiastic reception both online and at the recent public parish meetings that were attended by more than 600 Islanders.’

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