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Agreement with GPs on verge of being finalised

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CONTRACTS spelling out a new way of working for Jersey GPs during the coronavirus pandemic were on the verge of being agreed on Wednesday (8 April).

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Hopes were high for a positive outcome after a frustrating fortnight of delay since the system of direct employment of GPs was first highlighted by Chief Minister John Le Fondré.

Dr Philippa Venn, one of the GPs negotiating with the government on behalf of the Island’s Primary Care Body, said she expected contracts would be signed by Thursday morning.

‘This is great news and will release a flexible GP work force that can support the increased activity that we are witnessing in the community over the bank holiday weekend,’ she said.

Dr Venn hailed the imminent agreement as ‘a true collaboration to ensure that those who have Covid-19 are looked after appropriately and, importantly, those patients with “ordinary” primary-care needs can be looked after safely too’.

As part of the agreement, any income generated from patient fees will be returned to the government for the period of the four-month contract.

Dr Venn added: ‘We are awaiting the fee schedule which has been set by minsters, but we believe it to be very favourable to patients at a time of a public-health emergency.’

Senator Le Fondré announced the new approach on Wednesday 25 March, saying that it would provide more resilience for the General Hospital to care for seriously ill patients.

‘This agreement gives the Health Department more capacity and more flexibility to adapt to changing needs, and puts Jersey’s healthcare system in a stronger position to tackle Covid-19,’ he said.

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‘It is a significant step forward in ensuring that we have a resilient health service which is prepared and able to save lives.’

Although the Chief Minister said at the time that the new arrangements would be starting on Thursday, many of the details were not finalised, leading to mounting frustration as negotiations continued during the remainder of March and across the first week of April. At a government press conference on Tuesday, medical director Patrick Armstrong said that healthcare workers in central settings such as the Hospital would need to work very differently with GP colleagues in order to achieve maximum effect during the pandemic.

‘This is a complex piece of work and I am incredibly grateful to my primary-care colleagues for their patience and professionalism, as I know working out some of the details has been very difficult for everyone involved,’ he said.

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