Long-Covid: ‘GP fees should be subsidised’

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St Helier Deputy Rob Ward made the comments after asking Social Security Minister Judy Martin if there had been any consideration of subsidising GP fees for patients suffering from ‘long-Covid’, where symptoms associated with the virus last for more than 12 weeks.

And one Islander who caught Covid in March last year, but has only recently started to regain her sense of smell and taste, claims that she was simply ‘passed off’ as having a slow recovery from the virus.

Deputy Martin said that a long-Covid response plan, which was currently being developed, ‘will identify how best to support people’.

However, Deputy Ward expressed frustration over the minister’s reply on social media – describing it as ‘yet another plan’ and calling for action to be taken ‘that is as organised as the vaccination campaign’.

Speaking to the JEP, Deputy Ward said that the issue had been raised with him by one of his constituents – who had personally experienced long-Covid – and that the potential need for repeat GP consultations could become costly for sufferers of the disease.

When asked how subsidising appointment fees would address the issue, he said: ‘It’s a tangible way to help someone [with long-Covid], and the other aspect is that you can encourage people to go to their doctor, which would help to provide more information about it.’

He added: ‘One of the things that we learned from the pandemic is that the quicker action is taken, the better the outcome. It’s important that we get a gauge of what the problem is and who is going to be dealing with it.’

Health Minister Richard Renouf has described long-Covid as a ‘new

and emerging condition’, and said that the Strategic Policy, Planning and Performance Panel had met representatives from government departments and primary- and secondary-care workers to help establish a support plan.

Minutes from a Scientific and Technical Advisory Cell meeting recently disclosed that there could be an estimated 200 to 350 Islanders suffering from long-Covid symptoms.

Finance worker Jessica Kerfoot caught the virus in March 2020 and said she visited her GP multiple times but that, as long-Covid was a new condition, it was simply ‘passed off’ as a slow recovery.

Jessica Kerfoot. Picture: ROB CURRIE. (30875567)

‘I believe my doctor is £48 a visit and I went three, maybe four times, along with a few phone calls,’ she said.

She backed Deputy Ward’s calls for financial support for long-Covid sufferers.

‘I think it would be a good idea, or provide a line that they can call and talk to a GP who is comfortable with looking at long-Covid and looking into it all,’ she said. ‘I felt brushed off by some of the doctors but it was because we just didn’t know enough.’

She added: ‘More needs to be available. A buddy system for sufferers or a hotline, even if it is UK-based, would be better than nothing.

‘It is hard in Jersey to have mental wellbeing support without paying a fortune, and it is costly if you don’t have insurance.

‘Even then your doctor’s visits are sometimes capped – it can take a few appointments to try to resolve some issues, or move forward, so there can be a significant time gap.’

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