Politicians and health campaigners hope that a petition which now has more than 4,600 signatures will help force a rethink on charging cancer patients who need out of hours treatment at Accident and Emergency (A&E).
Express reported last Monday that cancer patients who were previously seen free of charge are now receiving bills if they need A&E care overnight or at weekends when Bulstrode Oncology Unit is closed. The petition was launched the following day by Nikita Le Prevost, who lost her mother to cancer three years ago.
By 06:30 this morning, the petition had secured 4,640 signatures. The petition can be read HERE.
Deputy Peter Roffey, who is leading political efforts to persuade the Committee for Health & Social Care to scrap the charges on cancer patients, told Express he was not surprised by the level of support for the petition.
"Although this is an astonishingly large response by the people of Guernsey, and one the Committee for Health & Social Care should heed, in many ways it was entirely predictable," said Deputy Roffey.
"Bringing in new charges for this very vulnerable group of patients doesn't begin to meet the basic 'smell test' of what is right. It is a significant misstep by the Committee and one I urge them to revisit very soon."
Pictured: Deputy Peter Roffey said yesterday that he hoped the petition would help convince the Committee for Health & Social Care to reverse its decision and remove charges on cancer patients at A&E.
The President of the Committee, Deputy Al Brouard, said earlier this month that cancer patients are now charged for treatment "so that all patients with life-limiting and chronic illnesses are treated the same".
"The decision was made that in order for all life-limiting and chronic illnesses to be treated the same, attendance charges at the Emergency Department [at the Princess Elizabeth Hospital] based on the time of day would be waived, but patients would be charged a treatment fee," he said.
"It should be noted that, prior to 1 May 2022, patients with illnesses such as heart disease, kidney failure and respiratory illnesses, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, were fully charged an attendance and a treatment charge, contrasting to oncology patients who were not charged at all."
Deputy Roffey said the Committee had told him in the past few days that cancer patients would not always face charges if they needed care at A&E out of hours.
"The good news is that on Friday the Committee confirmed in an email to me that any patient undergoing secondary healthcare could access the Emergency Department free of charge within 48 hours of their most recent treatment episode," said Deputy Roffey.
"This would include islanders undergoing chemotherapy. While this does not go far enough, it is a big step forward, and a world away from the policy elucidated in the Committee's reply to my initial questions, which first revealed the introduction of Emergency Department charges for cancer patients."
Pictured: The Committee for Health & Social Care is under increasing pressure to reverse completely the imposition of A&E charges on cancer patients. The Committee told Deputy Roffey on Friday that they would not be charged if they visited A&E within 48 hours of receiving cancer treatment.
Mike Read, who chairs Health Equality for All (HEAL) and the Guernsey Cancer Alliance, said the island's response to Ms Le Prevost's petition "has been overwhelming and unprecedented".
"The public in their thousands have told the Committee for Health & Social Care that its decision was wrong," said Mr Read.
"The public could not have been clearer. As a basic minimum, the expectation is that cancer patients should have 24-hour care, which includes the Emergency Department, should any complications arise from ongoing treatment out of hours.
"HEAL and the Guernsey Cancer Alliance absolutely agree with thousands of islanders in expecting Health & Social Care to admit that they have made a mistake and reverse their decision. We urge Health & Social Care to level up Emergency Department charges, not level down.
"We would like to pass our heartfelt thanks to all those who have signed and continue to show their support by signing the petition, bravely begun by Nikita Le Prevost, who lost her mum to cancer."
Mr Read said the Guernsey Cancer Alliance "would have welcomed consultation and discussion before the original decision was made [but] unfortunately we weren't given that opportunity and have as yet not been approached by Health & Social Care to discuss a reasonable solution for all those who have chronic or life-limiting conditions".
Pictured: This time last week, Express broke the news that cancer patients now face charges for out of hours treatment at A&E. Nikita Le Prevost started an online petition against the charges and it has already become one of the most signed petitions Guernsey has seen.
When she started the petition less than a week ago, Ms Le Prevost said: "This is absolutely disgraceful to put more worry onto patients who will now have a financial pressure to afford essential medical treatment when it could be needed most.
"Seriously ill people do not deserve any more worry or pressure inflicted upon them on top of what they are going through. This decision needs to be reversed and, if not, could result in seriously ill people being reluctant to seek urgent medical assistance fearing the associated costs."
Deputy Roffey explained the outcome he is pressing for with the Committee.
"In Guernsey, nearly all secondary healthcare is free at the point of delivery, being paid for out of taxes and social security contributions," he said. "Such secondary care is delivered in various settings, such as the Medical Specialist Group and the Princess Elizabeth Hospital – the latter including both in-patient and out-patient care. This includes cancer care at the Bulstrode Unit. None of it needs to be paid for by users. In contrast, primary care in Guernsey is typically paid for by patients at the point of delivery.
"My suggestion is a continuation of this philosophy to the Emergency Department. So they would continue to charge for primary care, which represents most of their work. But where a patient, already receiving secondary medical care at another setting, needs urgent treatment, in direct relation to that condition, then their care at the Emergency Department should be free.
"This would effectively extend the traditional approach to cancer patients to others with equally serious conditions. It would be a levelling up rather than a levelling down. Of course it would come at some cost, but nothing like the £2million quoted by Deputy Brouard if all Emergency Department treatment was to be made free.
"In short, whether or not you are charged in Guernsey for medical treatment should depend on whether the care required is primary care or secondary care, and not on the time of day or the day of the week on which that care is needed."
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