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Govt seeks better deal on sponsored patients programme

The Gibraltar Government is trying to renegotiate its contracts with tertiary hospitals in Spain and the UK as it attempts to curb spending on the sponsored patients programme.

In a recent question and answer session of Parliament, the Minister for Health, Neil Costa, said the Government hopes to obtain a better commercial deal for Gibraltar that provides the same number and variety of treatments.

In doing so, Mr Costa underscored that the first priority is ensuring that patients receive the care that they need.

This comes as the Gibraltar Health Authority sets about implementing a series of financial control measures to rein in spending.

The GHA ended the 2016-2017 financial year with a staggering £15 million deficit and Health Minister Neil Costa has committed himself to ensuring that the GHA comes within budget whilst improving patient care.

There have been ‘significant’ year-on-year increases in the treatment expenditure in establishments outside Gibraltar, Parliament heard on Friday.

In fact, costs relating to the programme have risen by 400% since 2012.

Mr Costa told MPs: “I can assure the House that improving the efficiency of the sponsored patients programme has been a top priority for Government.”

“Working closely with the Medical Director and sponsored patients departments senior officials, the GHA has introduced improvements on the existing databases, which has resulted in the constitution of the Tertiary Referrals Board,” he said.

Since May of this year the TRB has considered 550 cases of which 466 were approved and 33 were not approved as these did not meet the stipulated referrals criteria.

An additional 51 cases were offered alternative care pathways, which resulted in either further local treatment or referral to another external centre.

Mr Costa also highlighted the GHA’s efforts in repatriating as many services as possible to Gibraltar so that patients can be treated at home.

This has been possible at a reduced expenditure trend, compared to the spend last year to date, without compromising the quality of care provided, Mr Costa explained.

“As we increase the number of services being provided in Gibraltar, even if we have to recruit two or three consultants to provide that service, it’s going to be infinitely cheaper than the millions that we spend on transport and escorts, patients etc,” he added.

“If hopefully we come down on sponsored patients it is only because we are providing more services locally.”

Regarding the process of renegotiating the GHAs contracts with tertiary hospitals elsewhere, Mr Costa said: “We are currently in a very active process of negotiations with different tertiary centres where we think that we can get more bang for our buck in terms of different surgical, medical and clinical procedures.”

He called on Opposition MPs to therefore not press him further on the subject for fears it would prejudice this process.

“We don’t want to prejudice what we hope will be obtaining a better commercial deal for Gibraltar that provides exactly the same number and variety of treatments maybe even more but at prices that we are being advised would be far more reflective of what other institutions pay to private institutions than what we currently pay.”

This comes as a host of MPs levelled criticism at the Tertiary Referrals Board in Parliament and questioned why the process had changed.

Following a series of increasingly barbed exchanges, MPs were shut down by the Speaker of the House Adolfo Canepa who intervened to halt the discussion from descending further into debate.

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