GPs may soon be asked to "put prices clearly on websites" or have a "menu" at surgeries so that islanders can better understand what they are paying for, the Social Security Minister has revealed.
Deputy Elaine Millar said at Thursday’s scrutiny panel that transparency of pricing for GP appointments is one of the "key" topics in ongoing discussions with healthcare professionals.
Earlier this week, Deputy Millar announced a reduction of £20 to the cost of visiting a GP. The new scheme, which doubled the current subsidy for a GP visit, was developed to help islanders and surgeries with the rising cost of living.
At the panel, questions were raised about the scheme and accessibility to GP appointments.
Deputy Carina Alves, the panel's Vice Chair, asked the Minister whether she had worked with GPs to encourage a level of transparency around recent price increases and the frequency of those increases.
Pictured: Deputy Carina Alves said patients were not always informed of price increases, which could be at irregular intervals.
She said: "Prices differ quite a lot from surgery to surgery, patients are not always informed, and it is not always at regular intervals."
In April, Express reported that the standard fee for GP consultations at several medical practices rose, with the Island Medical Centre increasing prices from £54.50 to £64, while the HealthPlus and CastleQuay surgeries now charge £60.
Deputy Millar said that while GPs had been in discussions with Government since January on the new subsidy scheme, the changes were "coincidental".
She added: "It is unfortunate that there were a couple of routine increases after we began working on this scheme."
Deputy Millar said that pricing transparency was now one of the "key things" her officer group was discussing with GPs.
"You sometimes pay £80 for a doctor's visit, with no idea what you are paying £80 for," she said. "You just hand over the card."
The Social Security Minister added: "What we're asking GPs to do is to be more transparent, put prices clearly on websites or to have a menu of prices on their surgeries so people will understand what they will be charged when they go to the doctor."
Pictured: Deputy Elaine Millar said she had experiences at doctors' visits where she had "no idea" what she was paying for.
Ian Burns, Chief Officer of Customer and Local Services, said: "Improved transparency and consistency, so that patients and customers can see between two practices what the pricing is. At the moment, that may be difficult, because of the language that they use."
He added that GPs are supportive of the changes, while Deputy Alves noted that a previous comparison website had fallen by the wayside.
Panel members and deputies Andy Howell and Barbara Ward also raised concerns that telephone consultations, home visits, and out-of-hours visits are not supported by the new subsidy scheme.
However, Deputy Millar replied that the new scheme focused "on where the greatest demand is for people going to see their doctors".
She added that home visits were "rare", "expensive" and "not an efficient use of a GP's time".
Pictured: The Social Security Minister said the new cost reduction scheme focused "on where the greatest demand is for people going to see their doctors".
The CEO of charity Caritas also raised concerns about how the cost reduction scheme does not apply to islanders on the Health Access Scheme – which includes all members of an Income Support household, and all islanders in receipt of the Pension Plus scheme – who currently pay a £12 GP fee.
Patrick Lynch explained that, by not reducing the cost for those on the Health Access Scheme, "small charities" with "limited resources" like Caritas are still left to foot the bill for the poorest members of society.
As a result, Mr Lynch called for "more targeted" measures to help those most impacted by the cost of living crisis.
Excellent news @ElaineMillarJsy. As said elsewhere though we would like to have seen the £12 fee for those most in need, removed, as they will still struggle to afford and charities like us will still end up picking up the tab for them not @GovJersey . Hopefully this may follow?— Caritas Jersey CEO (@CaritasJsyCeo) May 31, 2023
In April, Dr Ed Klaber, a board member of the Primary Care Body – which represents the island's GPs – said the meeting where prices rises were discussed was "the most unpleasant meeting we have" and that prices had to rise due to increased maintenance and rent costs for surgeries.
Under the new cost reduction scheme, practices will receive an additional £5 per consultation to support them with the increased costs of running their businesses.
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