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UNICEF urges Minister to make children’s GP visits free

UNICEF urges Minister to make children’s GP visits free

Thursday 18 June 2020

UNICEF urges Minister to make children’s GP visits free

Thursday 18 June 2020


One of the world’s largest children’s charities is urging the Health Minister to make GP consultations free for all children and young people under 18 in Jersey.

The calls came in a letter penned by the UNICEF UK’s Deputy Executive Director, Sophie Galois, at the end of last month.

While Ms Galois said the charity welcomed the decision to make consultations free for under 5s and introduce a flat fee of £10 for those aged five to 17 in light of the current health emergency, she added that it “…would respectfully suggest to you to consider to continue with it beyond the Covid-19 emergency but to also extend it to all children.”

“Such a decision would be a huge element of your government support for children and a great step forward in implementing your Common Strategic Policy within which you pledged to “put children first”.”

Her calls followed contact from Jersey’s Children’s Commissioner, Deborah Macmillan, who herself had publicly appealed to the government to make the change. 

Deputy Carina Alves has now put forward proposals aiming to make that vision a reality, with a vote due in July. 

Her plans also aim to reduce the cost of the ‘pregnancy package’ from £120 to zero.

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Pictured: St. Helier Deputy Carina Alves.

They aim to build on what was described as a “landmark agreement” struck between the government and doctors in response to the virus crisis, which saw all GPs come under the employment of the Health Department.

Deputy Alves said that while she welcomed this improvement, she felt the proposals brought forward by the Health Minister, Deputy Richard Renouf, didn’t “form a sound basis in the longer term."

In the report accompanying her proposition, Deputy Alves quoted a statement from the Children’s Commissioner.

“The UNCRC is clear that all children and young people up to the age of 18 are entitled to special measures of care and protection, including their right to health,” Mrs McMillan wrote. “Any fees to access healthcare services present barriers to children and young people from accessing their right.”

The Commissioner further argued that the agreement between the Government and GPs showed it was “possible and workable” to have doctors employed by the Government and that it was “hard to see why this could not be extended beyond the covid-19 outbreak”.

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Pictured: The Children’s Commissioner, Deborah McMillan, also called for free GP consultations for all children and young people up to the age of 18.

“Ensuring that any child at any point in time can access their right to healthcare free of charge in Jersey is something that we should strive for at all times,” she said.

She noted that half of all children who took part in her island-wide survey said there should be no cost to go the doctor. 

Deputy Alves also referred to the letter UNICEF sent to the Health Minister at the end of May, drawing his attention to Article 24 of the rights of the Child – which states no child should be deprived of their right to access health care services - and describing the potential “great step forward” he could take in his pledge to “put children first”. 

Deputy Alves suggested that, if adopted, her proposals would represent an additional cost of £1.7million – based on UK data that under 5s average almost six visits per year and under 18s only three – for all 14,000 under 18s.

The full subsidy for the pregnancy package would be in the order of £120,000 annually. 

Meanwhile, fellow Reform Jersey politician Deputy Geoff Southern is aiming to secure free consultations for members of households on Income Support

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Pictured: Deputy Geoff Southern wants doctors visits to be free for people on income support and their families.

As the Health Minister is due to bring forward plans to improves access to primary care by prioritising vulnerable groups who are most in need of affordable access, Deputy Southern said his proposals addressed “the priority of meeting financial vulnerability”. 

With around 7,300 islanders on Income Support averaging around six visits a year, Deputy Southern said the scheme would cost £2.6 million.

He suggested all needs to be done is to issue a card giving access to free primary medical services.

Both propositions are set to be debated on 14 July.

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