Swindon TUC has set up a new website to assist the development of a campaign for the abolition of NHS prescription charges. In Wales they have already been abolished by the devolved Assembly, in Scotland they are being phased out, whilst the Northern Ireland Assembly in launching a review following a private members’ resolution calling for their abolition.
Only in Westminster, the home of the Blair/Brown government’s ‘market reforms’ of the NHS has there been no movement.
Our campaign site has a statement/petition demanding the abolition of charges throughout the UK (see below) , a briefing explaining the background to the issue, a page of comments from people explaining why they support abolition, and suggestions for campaigning. The statement/petition and the briefing can be downloaded for circulation.
The site can be found at: http://abolishprescriptioncharges.wordpress.com
Obviously campaigning needs to be on a national level. Therefore, we are asking union members and NHS supporters to take up the campaign in their areas and through their own organisations.
In answer to critics of their ‘reforms’ the government says that so long as treatment is “free at the point of need” it does not matter that they open up the service to private companies. In fact as you will see from the website treatment is not free, even for some people with life-threatening illnesses. So long as charges remain, free treatment will be largely for emergency and hospital based treatment.
For Treatment ”free at the point of delivery” – end prescription charges in all the UK!
The government has said, in response to critics of its NHS ‘reforms’, that treatment will remain “free at the point of need”. In fact treatment is not free for some people, even if they are seriously ill*. Not only are prescription charges still in place, and rising, but some patients with life threatening illnesses such as cancer have to pay for drugs, including chemotherapy (if not given in hospital). Such treatment often involves a cocktail of different drugs – a prescription charge for each one – so the whole treatment can be very expensive.
A recent report by the Citizens Advice Bureau estimated that as many as 800,000 people have not been getting the drugs prescribed to them because they cannot afford all of them. This includes people with cancer, asthma and HIV, which are not on the list of exemptions from charges (a list which dates from 1968).
In Wales and Scotland the administrations there have decided to end prescription charges because they discriminate against many poor people who do not qualify for free treatment.
We believe that it is unjust for patients in England and Northern Ireland to have to pay, when prescription charges are being phased out in Wales and Scotland. Moreover, so long as they remain in place then it cannot be said that treatment is “free at the point of delivery”. We are therefore calling on the government to end prescription charges throughout the UK.
* They are only automatically free for children and people over 60.
Email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org to add your name to the statement