Archive for August, 2008

“Outdated and unjust”

August 14, 2008

This is an editorial from the Morning Star.

WHAT a revelation of government priorities is its refusal to countenance the abolition of NHS prescription charges in England.


It has no difficulty extending £50 billion to the Northern Rock bank, spending billions on overseas wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and feather-bedding big business and the rich by freezing direct taxation and slashing corporation tax. (more…)


Cancer patients forced to cut back on food to pay hefty prescription charges

August 13, 2008

Nearly half of cancer patients in England are being forced to cut back on basic needs such as food or heating, in order to pay for their prescriptions, a survey by Macmillan Cancer Support has found.


The survey also shows that nearly two thirds of cancer patients are missing out on simple leisure activities, like family days out, because they are struggling to cope with the added cost of multiple prescriptions – often over long periods of time.


The results come more than a year after the Government promised to review the prescription charges system in England, which currently only gives medical exemptions to some illnesses.

Ciarán Devane, Chief Executive at Macmillan Cancer Support, said:


‘It’s appalling that cancer patients in England are forced to cut back on basic necessities like food to pay for their urgently-needed medication. People must never be forced to choose between food or medication. The Government must act now. Patients should be allowed to focus on getting better instead of worrying how they’re going to find money for prescriptions.’


Cancer patients often need multiple prescriptions to ease distressing side effects of cancer treatment like nausea, fatigue, severe mouth ulcers, and debilitating diarrhoea and can spend hundreds of pounds each year paying for prescriptions.


Amanda from Surrey, who was diagnosed with breast cancer last September, said:


‘My treatment’s over but I’m still struggling. I’m now on statutory sick pay because I’ve been too unwell to work and quite frankly, have barely enough money to live on. I’ve had to adjust my lifestyle to cope with the cancer – a better diet, more heating, lots of prescriptions – and when you add it all up it’s expensive. Fighting cancer is hard enough without the terrible financial worry that comes with it.’


Macmillan believes prescription charges are a tax on illness and should be abolished in England.


To join Macmillan’s campaign visit


“I need at least four prescribed medications…”

August 12, 2008

Here is one patient’s experience of the problems with the cost of prescribed medications.

“I support this campaign fully. I think its a disgrace the amount they charge for prescriptions.

I am on long term medication after having major surgery a few years ago, and have been left with side effects which I will have for the rest of my life. I need at least 4 prescribed medications, which mounts up to a lot of money every other month. This is not including over the counter medication for routine symptoms: i.e. hay fever, headaches, flu, cough medicine (on occasion). Frankly I can no longer afford it, am thinking of which medication to drop, which I know I cant afford to do, health wise.”

“The case for maintaining prescription charges is in tatters today”

August 11, 2008

Colin Fox, as a Scottish Socialist Party Member of the Scottish Parliament moved a Bill for the abolition of prescription charges. This opened the debate which led to the SNP government introducing legislation to phase them out by 2011. He is joint national spokesperson of the SSP.


“I presented the Bill to abolish Prescription Charges in Scotland to the Holyrood Parliament in 2003 because I believe they are in effect a tax on the sick. Prescription charges are in my mind an affront to the founders of the NHS who made a profound and noble promise in 1947 to provide the best medical care possible to everyone, regardless of their means or status.


The fact that charges were later introduced as ‘a short term emergency measure’ in 1951, initially by a Labour Government keen to raise money to fight a war in Korea is unfortunate to say the least.


Now there are nearly a million people in Britain who regularly go without the medicines prescribed for them by their doctors because they simply cannot afford the charge of £7 per item.


The case for maintaining prescription charges is in tatters today. They simply cannot be justified on medical grounds, on financial grounds, or on the basis of any logic. When you look at those who are exempt and those who must pay then all sense goes out the window. The richest people in Britain often get their medicines free – like JK Rowling (entitled to free prescriptions as a new mum) or the Queen (entitled as a senior citizen), whilst on the other hand millions of the poorest patients must pay a small fortune for theirs. Some chronically sick patients often have to finds the money for a cocktail of tablets again and again and again.


The Welsh Parliament led the way by abolishing these infamous charges in 2006. The new SNP government up here have accepted my case for abolition and promised to do so by 2011- we will keep them to that promise. So I welcome Swindon TUC’s efforts to ensure that millions of patients in England benefit too.


I pledge to do all I can to help you in your campaign for health justice.”

“Prescription charges can be just one more barrier and should go”

August 10, 2008

Dr Ron Singer is a GP and President of the Medical Practitioners Union, a section of the union UNITE. Here he explains why he believes Prescription charges should be abolished.

“As a practising GP in a deprived area of north London, I know that the cost of prescriptions can put some people off getting the medicines they need. We talk about there being an ‘Inverse Care Law’ which says the more health care a person needs the less they get in the UK and here is another example. No well off person would think twice abut paying for the medicines they need. The less well off who often have more frequent need for medicines will be the group that think twice about filling the prescription their GP has given them.The government talks a lot about reducing the gap between the health of the poorest in society and the better off. Prescription charges can be just one more barrier and so should go. Unpopular as we are told it may be, raising general taxation is a much better and ‘healthier’ way to generate money for the NHS.

The Labour Government is not popular at the moment. Supporting the NHS instead of privatising it and helping people who are ill to pay for their medicines would reassert the principles and values of the NHS that the majority of the public still uphold and would be a tonic to us all.”


Macmillan Cancer Support campaign to abolish prescription charges

August 10, 2008

The Macmillian Cancer Support charity is campaigning for the abolition of preccription charges. Macmillan says it believe ‘in the following principles:

  • No one should have to pay for their prescriptions – it is a tax on illness.
  • No one should be in the position where they can’t afford their prescription.
  • Some people are already exempt from prescription charges, but the current list of medical exemptions is over 40 years old so a review is long overdue. 
  • Most people under 60 with cancer have to pay for their prescriptions. This unfair system means that nearly one in ten cancer patients (9%) aged 55 and under who do qualify for charges, are unable to pay for prescriptions.
  • The Government needs to think again on their position that they will not put any more money into a solution. The review must consider new ways to fund extra spending on the prescriptions budget in England – such as more effective use of non-branded medicines which could save hundreds of millions of pounds a year.

Visit their website here:

“Prescription charges – a tax collected only from people who are ill”

August 5, 2008

‘DC’ writes:


“Please add my name to your Petition/Statement calling for the abolition of prescription charges.


My main reason for supporting the ending of prescription charges is the very principal of any NHS charging  –  it is in effect a tax collected only from people who are ill.


From personal experience I also know that the system of charging is a real mess.  For many years I have suffered from Psoriasis and paid for two prescribed creams. Following a heart attack, for about eight years I paid for prescriptions for four drugs taken daily and a ‘spray’ to be used as necessary. I was then diagnosed with a thyroid problem and was prescribed a single drug. Although this was unrelated to the other medical conditions, for some unknown reason not only was this drug exempt from charges it meant that all my other prescriptions then became exempt from charges. I am now exempt from charges because of my age.”

“We need a counter-attack of just this kind”

August 4, 2008

This is the response from Julian Tudor Hart to a request for his support.

“Congratulations on your initiative. We need a counter-attack of just this kind.”

“When Nye Bevan made everything free in the NHS he designed in 1948, he knew what he was doing.  He took all health care completely out of the marketplace.  Health care was no longer a commodity, sold for profit and bought from fear.  It became a public service, a gift from taxpayers when they were well, to people with the misfortune to be ill: from each according to his or her ability, to each according to his or her need; a first helping of socialism, within which to learn how to behave in a new world of solidarity, where people would co-operate to help each other, rather than compete in an endless battle to reach the top of a dungheap.


Few people today remember that for the first five years or so of the NHS, there were absolutely no charges for anything.  Not only all prescriptions were free, so were glasses, eye tests, and all dental care.  Charges for these were re-introduced not because this was necessary, but to re-establish the principle that nobody must ever have anything they haven’t paid for personally, because even in Attlee’s cabinet, there were few real socialists.  Then as now, most of them paid more attention to what was said in the Daily Mail than the opinions of their voters.  When they re-imposed charges, Bevan resigned.


The contribution made by prescription charges to the NHS is much smaller than most people think, and there are other more effective alternatives.  One is to reduce wasteful and ineffective prescribing, particularly of antibiotics for minor virus infections for which they are in any case ineffective, and only help to develop resistant bacteria like MRSA.  The government is rightly campaigning to do this, and the BMA agrees with them.  Another would be to renegotiate the prices of medications, which are in many cases outrageous, bearing no relation to their true costs of production.  At present, pharmaceutical companies get a return of around 20% on their investments, guaranteed by an agreement between them and the government which has never been fully disclosed to the public because of commercial secrecy.  MPs should have tackled this long ago.  But in any case, this is not the main point.  We need to keep our eye on the ball: get back to the NHS as a gift economy, our first installment of a better future, where all of us move forward together, instead of each one trying to get ahead of the rest.”