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St John owed £36,000 by patients

St John owed £36,000 by patients

Friday 23 October 2020

St John owed £36,000 by patients

St John is going to start taking people to court if they haven't paid their ambulance bills within six months and have made no attempt to set up a repayment plan.

The charity, which is partly funded by the States, is currently owed £36,000 by 60 different people who have used the ambulance service this year but haven't yet set up a repayment plan.

"What we're trying to do is say, because this is new, because people look at us with a charitable status and we want to be fair, let's be slightly different to a normal company or a doctors surgery," said Chief Financial Officer for St John, Stuart Brennan. "We think it's reasonable that after six months, you should have paid and it's totally reasonable that after six months those people should go to court."

However, the charity is being more lenient for those who have legitimate reasons as to why they can't pay.

 Stuart Brennan St John

Pictured: Chief Financial Officer, Stuart Brennan.

"At the moment, it's widely publicised that lots of employers have made redundancies etc, so if you've just lost your job we understand and we would like to help you come up with a time when you could repay us," Mr Brennan continued. "Providing someone signs a form or writes a letter to that effect, saying 'I'll let you know as soon as I get a new job and I would like to pay this much while I get myself back on my feet', we have no problem with that." 

The average emergency ambulance fee in Guernsey is £371, with potentially an extra £70 if a paramedic is needed.

However, St John does have an annual subscription service which covers all emergency ambulance call-outs and up to ten non-emergency journeys. It costs £35 for an adult, £30 for a senior citizen and £13 for a child.

"We get a certain amount of funding from the government and then we get the amount of people that subscribe, but that leaves an amount of funding that we need to recoup, which is based on the costs to run the ambulance service," said Mr Brennan. "We try to keep it as low as possible but without interfering with the quality of care that we provide.

st john ambulance

Pictured: The charity wants to ensure the service remains at a high standard.

"If everyone subscribed there might not be the need for an additional fee, if more people subscribed the fee might be reduced.

"But if the people that are owing us the monies we're talking about decide not to pay and there's no means to find some sort of financial arrangement, we might need to look at the pricing of our subscription or the pricing model of the people that do actually pay."

The money being recovered is only related to incidents from this year.

"Covid-19 means we think it's prudent that all businesses should look at their finances into the future," Mr Brennan added. "For 2019, there's no arrears owing to us, apart from people who have set up a repayment plan. In respect of the people we think owe us funds and we potentially could take to court in the future, it's all in relation to just this year.

 Royal Court

Pictured: St John could end up taking people to court if they don't pay.

"This is definitely something we're going to continue, moving forwards on the aspect of fairness. We don't want to have to increase any other pricing structure for the people that do currently fund or pay for the service."

However, Mr Brennan stressed that the emergency ambulance service will always be there for anyone who needs it.

"The main message is no matter what, we will always respond, irrespective of financial arrangements," he said. "Our operational teams have no information sharing of who owes us a bill. We are always there to support and go out in anyone's hour of need. If they do need an ambulance, we will be there every time."

St John is encouraging people without health cover to join the subscription service, so as to avoid bigger bills in the future.

The charity will soon be launching an online system, where Guernsey residents can sign up for the subscription service with greater ease. 

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