Prescription charges – almost but not quite

A Swindon TUC Media Release

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”.

I 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 further comment ring Martin Wicks on 07786 394593



2 Responses to “Prescription charges – almost but not quite”

  1. Martin Wicks Says:

    Further to the above the Guardian today says that the cost of prescription charges for cancere patients who have to pay is only £20 million a year – a cheap piece of “generosity”. This figure probably reflects the fact that the majority of such patients are over 60, so they automatically get drugs free.

    However, the major part of the cost related to people with chronic illness. The cost of abolishing prescriptions for these people is apparently £300-350 million, and Brown’s pledge is dependent on how much money is saved in the NHS drugs budget. Still peanuts, mind you.

  2. Lorraine Pulford Says:

    I must say I was amazed to discover that Cancer patients were charged at all. As with most conditions (mine is RA) you don’t have to be over 60 to contract these ailments.

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