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States on verge of new reciprocal health agreement with UK

States on verge of new reciprocal health agreement with UK

Tuesday 31 May 2022

States on verge of new reciprocal health agreement with UK

Tuesday 31 May 2022


Guernsey could have a new reciprocal health agreement with the UK within a few weeks.

The Policy & Resources Committee is reviewing a draft policy letter on the proposed agreement today. It hopes to present it to the States' Assembly for debate and approval in July.

The island's previous reciprocal health agreement ended in 2009 when the UK withdrew and the States decided that the terms then available for a replacement agreement were prohibitively expensive.

For more than a decade, the States found the UK unenthusiastic about negotiating new reciprocal health agreements. 

But the Policy & Resources Committee said yesterday that Brexit had changed the approach of the UK Government on the issue and that acceptable terms were now available for a new agreement between the two governments.

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Pictured: The UK Government is having to negotiate many new health agreements following its withdrawal from the European Union and this has created an opportunity for a new deal with Guernsey as well.

The Committee has not yet published any details of the proposed new agreement but may do so imminently if it approves the draft policy letter at its meeting today.

If the agreement is similar to the previous agreement which ended in 2009, it will provide Bailiwick residents with access to a range of health services free at the point of use while they are temporarily in the UK, and UK residents would have comparable rights in Guernsey.

It is understood that the Committee for Health & Social Care will also be involved in today's meeting to review the draft policy letter as the States try to respond quickly to what they believe is a short window of opportunity to conclude a new agreement with the UK.

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Pictured: Deputy Peter Ferbrache (left) and Deputy Al Brouard will today lead their respective committees - Policy & Resources and Health & Social Care - into what they hope will be final discussions before proposals for a new reciprocal health agreement can be submitted to the States' Assembly.

Deputy Peter Ferbrache, the President of the Policy & Resources Committee, told a public hearing of the Scrutiny Management Committee yesterday that the States need to treat finalising the new agreement as "an urgent matter".

"There's a timetable from the UK of mid-September, I think, so therefore the States will have to make a decision by the end of July or we'll miss the boat for years," said Deputy Ferbrache.

"It won't just be putting it back for a few months - it will be years. I regard this as an opportunity that we need to grasp pretty quickly."

Deputy Jonathan Le Tocq, the Policy & Resources Committee's lead for external relations, said he had spent many years trying to interest the UK Government in a new reciprocal health agreement.

"I think I've been involved in trying to lobby in the UK probably for 10 years on this issue and it was just knocking at a closed door that was never going to open," said Deputy Le Tocq.

"It's one of the benefits of Brexit from our point of view that the door has opened. But we need to make sure that we can make use of it while it's still open because it will be very short-lived."

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Pictured: The draft new reciprocal health agreement would provide UK residents on holiday in Guernsey with access to various health services and facilities without having to pay private rates.

Deputy Heidi Soulsby, the Committee's Vice President, said that the current round of negotiations over an agreement had started in the previous States' term.

"Negotiations on this began in the previous term when I was in a different seat [as President of the Committee for Health & Social Care]. It is actually the responsibility of the Policy & Resources Committee to run with it, which we have done this term," said Deputy Soulsby.

"Things have been delayed because of covid. Things have been ebbing and flowing. But we are reviewing a draft policy letter [on Tuesday] hopefully for debate by the States before the end of July.

"In terms of cost, I think it's around £300,000 annual cost, which is lost revenue as opposed to putting money out because it will be a knock for knock arrangement.

"The UK now, post-Brexit, are wanting to find arrangements which they have to with the EU and elsewhere...it's been a good time for us to take advantage of that."

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