New call for free flights for companions of patients being treated away from Jersey

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ADDITIONAL funding should be made available to cover flight costs for travel companions for those receiving medical treatment outside of the Island, according to a Reform Jersey politician.

Deputy Rob Ward is calling for an extra £734,000 to be transferred to the Health Department from existing government budgets to expand the travel policy.

Currently those who qualify for travel costs include patients:

  • Under the age of 18.

  • Over the age of 75.

  • Those who have a medical reason authorised by their consultant – for example severe epilepsy, neurological deficit.

  • Cancer patients for a planning day and radiotherapy/chemotherapy treatment only.

In an amendment to the Government Plan, Deputy Ward said: ‘When we travel for health care, scans, surgery or other needs there is always an uncertainty of the outcome.

‘Be it a reaction to medicines or anaesthetic. A reaction to bad news from a scan, or simply the anxiety associated with hospital care that some experience. Having a family member or trusted friend [present] provides essential support. This amendment seeks to increase this provision and look to provide the best and most value-for-money way of providing for the cost.’

Deputy Rob Ward Picture: ROB CURRIE. (34808115)

Earlier this year, Deputy Ward revealed that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer and at the time thanked Health Minister Karen Wilson for allowing his wife to travel with him.

Deputy Wilson, in response to a written States question earlier this year, said that she was ‘exploring changes to the existing policy’ and added that she had instructed health officials to look into whether all requirements related to travel companions could be removed.

In his amendment, Deputy Ward added: ‘This amendment allocates additional monies to enable the widening of provision beyond the current criteria in order that those facing off-Island travel for medical care have the choice to have an accompanying person to support them.

‘Part of this process needs to be an urgent review of the systems used to book flights and the associated costs. Most flights are booked at the last minute in order to ensure planned care is being undertaken. This creates huge financial pressure on anyone being asked to book their own flights at similar short notice and onto a specific flight. By reviewing the ability to book earlier and obtain refunds for flights not used, there is an opportunity for significant financial savings which may mean additional provision will create limited or no additional costs.’

The Government Plan is scheduled to be debated at the next States sitting, which is due to begin on Monday 12 December.

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