Deputies and health campaigners are welcoming the reversal of the out-of-hours cancer charge policy at the Princess Elizabeth Hospital and hope that other Emergency Department charges can be reviewed in future.
The Committee for Health & Social Care introduced charges on 1 May for cancer treatments outside of Bulstrode Oncology Unit’s opening hours but reversed the decision yesterday following significant public and political pressure.
Mike Read, Chair of Health Equality for All (HEAL), told Express: “It was clear that the original decision was based primarily on the idea of equity, rather than an analysis of costs, taken without wider consultation or a true appreciation of the impact this change would have…. this is great news and a huge relief to cancer patients and their families.”
Deputy Peter Roffey, who originally wrote to the Committee in September querying the policy, said he was “delighted and mightily relieved” at the reversal and hopes the Committee will “make it permanent”.
“I know from people contacting me that this episode has caused huge stress to a number of already vulnerable people and therefore the sooner the matter can be permanently resolved the better,” said Deputy Roffey.
And Deputy Rob Prow, who questioned if a review into charging policy should occur in last week’s States’ meeting, said he was “extremely pleased” with the decision which he said replaced an “untenable” position.
Pictured: Deputy Al Brouard, President of the Committee for Health & Social Care, announced the policy change yesterday afternoon.
The Committee for Health & Social Care and its President, Deputy Al Brouard, were also commended for reversing their previous decision.
Mr Read said: “It is also important to acknowledge that Deputy Brouard and the [Committee] listened to public opinion, and that should be welcomed at a time when many feel that their voices are too often ignored by our government”.
He also passed on his “heartfelt thanks” to Nikita Le Prevost, who “bravely” launched a petition calling for the charges to be abandoned which subsequently racked up close to 5,000 signatures.
Deputy Roffey expressed “considerable sympathy” with the Committee, saying: “Firstly, they are trying to manage a finite budget in the face of ever-growing demands. Secondly, I understand their valid point about attempting to treat all conditions requiring secondary health care equally. Lastly, I know it can be hard to step back from a public position once it has been adopted.
“All of that being said, this was in my view a significant misstep, and it is right to take a fresh look at the whole issue.”
Deputy Prow thanked the Committee for having “the courage to reconsider their position” and said he was “further encouraged” that it plans to refund all those who have paid for emergency treatment between May and November.
Pictured: Cancer patients who needed out-of-hours treatment could have been invoiced up to £380 for visiting the Emergency Department.
Pressure is now likely to grow on relieving Emergency Department charges for those suffering other life-shortening conditions, especially for secondary care patients.
Deputy Prow hopes there can be a “full and comprehensive review of all Emergency Department charging policies, particularly where patients are receiving secondary health care and need urgent out of hours treatment or where ‘financial vulnerability’ is apparent, in consultation with third sector stake holders”.
Mr Read argued that the third sector “play a crucial role in supporting cancer patients” and provide non-means tested financial support to those requiring treatment.
“The knowledge and value these organisations bring to the Committee for Health & Social Care should not be underestimated or ignored. The Guernsey Cancer Alliance appreciate that proportionate and pragmatic solutions need to be found to ensure the financial challenges we are all facing do not unfairly target the financially vulnerable in our community.
“We would therefore welcome the opportunity of being involved in discussion on any future proposals that seek to change the [Emergency Department] charging policy."
Deputy Roffey recognised that making all A&E visits free of charge is “sadly completely unaffordable” but claimed any review would help to reinforce the need to bolster the States’ finances.
Pictured (top): L-R; Deputy Peter Roffey, Mike Read, and Deputy Rob Prow.
Once your comment has been submitted, it won’t appear immediately. There is no need to submit it more than once. Comments are published at the discretion of Bailiwick Publishing, and will include your username.
There are no comments for this article.