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Reciprocal health agreement between UK, Jersey reinstated

A reciprocal health agreement between the UK and Jersey has been reinstated, but not with Guernsey.

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The move had been expected, and follows the reinstatement of the Isle of Man’s reciprocal healthcare agreement last October, after a temporary scheme there expired at the end of September.

Guernsey, however – which saw its reciprocal health agreement (RHA) with the UK end at the same time Jersey’s did on 1 April 2009, along with those of such other Channel Islands as Alderney and Herm – remains without such a deal in place, as do those other islands.

Jersey’s Health and Social Services minister, Deputy Anne Pryke, said of the new agreement, which she signed on Friday, two years to the day that the previous agreement ended: “It is wonderful news both for islanders and UK residents, and brings them peace of mind.”

Ulike the previous agreement, which covered the Channel Islands as a single entity and involved an exchange of money by the UK, this one is of a type that one Jersey government spokeswoman called a "when in Rome" variation, meaning that the citizens of each country are treated alongside locals as needed, with no financial transactions between the respective governments taking place. 

Among other implications of this difference is that there is no mechanism to cover any costs associated with repatriation, in the event that an islander or UK resident is taken ill in the other country and is unable to return home on a conventional flight.

For this reason, Pryke said, "we therefore recommend that, wherever possible, islanders still obtain travel insurance to cover them in [the event of such an] eventuality".

Guernsey considering UK offer, paper says

Guernsey officials did not immediately respond to a request for an update of the situation there. However, according to a report in the online edition of the Guernsey Press & Star, the UK has given the Bailiwick of Guernsey a "take it or leave it" reciprocal health agreement option, which it apparently is not rushing to sign up to.  

The story quotes the director of corporate services at Guernsey’s Health & Social Services Department as saying that the same deal that the other island Crown Dependencies had agreed to "would cause problems" for Guernsey. 

This could be due to differences between Guernsey’s healthcare system – under which Guernsey residents are obliged to pay for ambulance, accident and emergency treatments and GP visits – and those of the other Crown Dependencies, where such services are free.

As reported here last year, the way that the UK handled the ending of its reciprocal healthcare agreements in 2009 and 2010 with Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man came in for serious criticism in a  report issued by the Justice Committee of the UK’s House of Commons.

Referring to the way the termination of the agreement with the Isle of Man in particular was handled, that report said: “This case is a good example of how relations between the Crown Dependencies and the UK government can be badly damaged by insensitive handling of an important issue…the Department of Health should have been aware, and the Ministry of Justice should have made it aware, that the issue of healthcare is an emotive one for islanders.”

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