VISITING a doctor could become cheaper as soon as next month as part of a government commitment to help Islanders deal with the cost-of-living crisis.
Social Security Minister Elaine Millar has announced that she is working on a plan ‘to reduce the cost of GP appointments for all Islanders’.
Typically, GP visits for adults cost about £50.
The figure has steadily increased over the last decade as the subsidy the government pays to GPs for each appointment has remained unchanged, forcing practices to put up their prices. Now extra money from the Health Insurance Fund – from which the subsidy is drawn – will be used to reduce the cost of visits in response to what the minister said she recognised as ‘a lot of concern’ expressed in the States Assembly and the wider community.
‘Everyone should be able to access their GP and I am committed to launching a plan that will give all Islanders a reduced cost for their appointments. My team are in discussion with GPs on the best and quickest way to make this happen and I look forward to sharing more details very soon,’ she said.
Deputy Millar gave few details on exactly how much prices could reduce but she said there were sensitive negotiations to be had with the Primary Care Body – which represents the Island’s GPs – that would help doctors and also bring down the cost to patients.
The minister said she would rather not speculate on the impact that the increased funding would have on a visit to the doctor but she said she was hopeful it would constitute a ‘decent reduction’.
She hinted that the mechanism to achieve this was likely to involve ‘a package’ rather than a simple increase to the Health Insurance Fund rebate.
Although ‘broadly welcoming’ the development, the body confirmed that it had no details yet of the form the government’s support would take.
Dr Nigel Minihane, a representative for the body, said: ‘We would be delighted, although it’s been a long time coming and the details are still not there.
‘We don’t yet know how it’s going to work.’
In December one of Dr Minihane’s colleagues on the body, Dr Gordon Callandar, wrote to the JEP urging the government to ‘prioritise the sustainable funding of general practice and wider primary care and, as an interim measure, to increase the rebate with immediate effect to reduce the cost to patients of GP consultations’.
Later that month Deputy Geoff Southern, then chair of the Health and Social Security Scrutiny panel, succeeded with an amendment to the Government Plan preventing the ‘raiding’ of the fund to help finance IT projects in secondary care.
He said this would reduce the value of the £92m fund to £48m by 2025.