Ministers are looking to draw £4.4m from the island's health insurance money pot to fund a "landmark" agreement that saw more than 100 GPs directly employed by the government to fight covid-19.
As part of the agreement, GPs from across 13 practices will be working in roles across the Health Department over the next four months.
They will be staffing the new ‘Urgent Treatment Centre” based in the Gwyneth Huelin Wing at the hospital, as well as carrying out other responsibilities, including:
Video: The new Urgent Treatment Centre is based at the Gwyneth Huelin wing.
To fund that work, Social Security Minister Deputy Judy Martin is seeking to take £5.32m out of the Health Insurance Fund, which receives 2% of Social Security contributions and currently stands at £83m.
It is mostly used to fund the Pharmaceutical Benefit, by which prescription medicines for insured islanders are fully funded; and the Medical Benefit, which pays a subsidy of £20.28 to reduce the cost of GP consultations in primary care.
As well as the GP agreement, the money will also fund Health and Community Services’ ‘At Risk Health Optimisation’ service, which involves providing a free consultation to at-risk and vulnerable islanders as well as a prescription for medicines for severely vulnerable people to support them at the first onset of any symptoms of covid-19.
The Health Department has already received interim funding from the Minister for Treasury and Resources, Deputy Susie Pinel, and the transfer sought by Deputy Martin would replace the amounts drawn, “allowing funding to be made available for other emergency covid-19-related support”.
Pictured: The Health Insurance Fund receives 2% of Social Security contributions and currently stands at £83 million.
The majority of the funds (£4.4m) would fund the work of GPs, while the remaining £900,000 would fund the At Risk Health Optimisation service.
The prescription costs associated with the service – which are estimated at around £840,000 - are covered by the existing Health Insurance Fund Pharmaceutical Benefit.
The Health Insurance Law “tightly controls” the ways in which the Fund can be used, ensuring it is ring-fenced for primary care activity, Deputy Martin noted in a report accompanying her proposals.
“However, in the current rising crisis, this inflexibility means it cannot adequately support Primary Care to undertake the range of roles needed to respond to the covid-19 pandemic,” she added.
“The proposed transfer ensures that HCS can direct the activity of primary care practitioners and ensure a co-ordinated and effective response to covid-19.”
Pictured: Deputy Judy Martin says the inflexibility of the fund means it cannot adequately support Primary Care.
Deputy Martin noted that the States Assembly has previously approved transfers from the Health Insurance Fund to support primary care service delivery and the development of the healthcare system.
Her proposals – which will be debated at the next States sitting on 21 April - come just two weeks after the Assembly agreed to cancel this year’s payment of £63.5 million from the Consolidated Fund into the Social Security Fund (SSF).
Deputy Kirsten Morel who had had asked for guarantees that the money would be paid back during the debate, has now published a proposition to that effect.
He is asking States Members to agree that the Council of Ministers should include a structured proposal within the 2021 Government Plan for the £65.3m to be repaid within the next 15 years.
Pictured: Deputy Kirsten Morel wants the £63.5 million to be repaid over the next 15 years.
He explained that, given the important role “a healthy and sustainable Social Security Fund plays in islanders’ lives”, it was crucial that islanders be provided with the reassurance that they will see the ‘missing’ funds being paid into the Fund in the coming years.
Deputy Morel also said the lack of 2020 funding would mean the Fund would be missing out on the investment gains that would have occurred should the funds had been paid in during this year.
“Whilst the proposition requires the Minister for Treasury and Resources to bring forward a plan for the payment of funds within the next Government Plan, it is important to note that the Minister is also given a large amount of flexibility in how the plan is structured,” Deputy Morel explained.
Pictured: Deputy Morel wants the Council of Ministers to include a structured proposal within its 2021 Government Plan for the £65.3 million to be repaid.
“Indeed, should the Minister require the full 15 years in which to pay that money into the SSF, this would mean an average payment of £4.35 million per year; which is a manageable amount, even during such challenging times.”
His proposals will be debated on 12 May.
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