The annual conference of Trades Union Councils in the South West has agreed a resolution from Swindon TUC calling for the abolition of prescription charges in all of the UK. It called on all local TUC’s and their affiliated union branches to write in to the government’s review of charges currently taking place, calling for abolition.
Moving the resolution Martin Wicks pointed to the news in the media that the British Medical Association was calling for abolition. The BMA said “the system is penalising people through a lottery on what condition you have and whether it falls under the prescription exemption policy”. The government response was that the £400 million raised by the charge was an important source of income for the NHS, as if they could not afford abolition.
Ironically this was said in the same week as the government announced that it was going to raise £75 billion by ‘quantitative easing’ (or printing money). In comparison to this, £400 million a year is peanuts.
Under pressure of the campaign for abolition and decisions to end charges in the rest of the UK, the government has made some concessions. The government has conceded exemption for cancer patients from this April. They have also said that they will “over a number of years” introduce exemption for people with long term illnesses or chronic disease. The review is supposed to be how to introduce this.
This will lead to even more anomalies with some illnesses being exempted and others not.
It makes absolutely no sense to have a decreasing number of people in England alone, still paying the charge. That is why we will continue to press for complete abolition. Only when that is done can it be said that treatment is really free at the point of need.
If you or your organisation have not submitted a letter to the government review we would urge you to do so, writing to:
Prof Ian Gilmore, DH Mail, Richmond House, 79 Whitehall, London SW1 2NS