Prescription Charges – almost but not quite

This is a Swindon TUC Media Release 23rd September 2008

In his speech to New Labour’s conference today Gordon Brown announced that:

  • From next year cancer patients will not have to pay for prescription charges;

  • Over “the next few years” savings from the NHS drugs budget will be ploughed back into free prescriptions for people with “long term conditions”.

The first is a welcome step in relation to what has long been a national scandal, though it should not be forgotten that it has taken Brown 11 years to do it, and not without the pressure of a political crisis in which he is fighting for his survival.

The second of these promises appears conditional on the level of savings.

It should be borne in mind that the government is estimated to receives only £430 million this year from prescription charges. Recently it stumped up £50 billion for Northern Rock and even more recently £100 billion for a bunch of spivs in the city to cover their “toxic loans”.

We don’t know how much of the £430 million is comprised of prescriptions from cancer patients, but if you take away the receipts from them and people with chronic illnesses there would be barely any income left.

To maintain prescription charges for whoever might be left in England simply does not make sense. Therefore we should continue to press for abolition in England. Far from being a “gift” from Gordon, his announcement makes a nonsense of his government’s refusal to follow Scotland and Wales in abolishing prescription charges for the whole UK, for everybody.


For further comment ring Martin Wicks on 07786 394593


One Response to Prescription Charges – almost but not quite

  1. Martin Wicks says:

    Further to this according to the Guardian the cost of free prescriptions for those cancer patients who pay is £20 million: a cheap piece of “generosity” on the part of the government. The largest part of their apparent concession relates to those with chronic illness. The Guardian says that doing away with prescription charges for them would cost £300-350 million. That sadly is dependent on the savings made from the cost of NHS drugs.

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