Labour to scrap prescription charges


“Healthcare is a human right. People should not be forced to worry about the cost of their medicines. “

Jeremy Corbyn

At its annual Conference, Labour has announced that the next Labour government will abolish prescription charges in England as part of the party’s plans to expand universalism in public services.

Explaining the policy, Jeremy Corbyn said “Healthcare is a human right. People should not be forced to worry about the cost of their medicines,” and adding that “Bringing England in line with the rest of the UK by scrapping prescription charges for everyone is simple common sense and part of our plans to expand and upgrade our public services for the many, not the few.”

Currently, prescriptions are free for patients living in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – but cost £9.00 per item in England. This is a particular burden on people with long term conditions like asthma and chronic kidney disease who can fork out up to £104 a year on medication, or even if more if they do not opt in to the NHS pre-payment discount scheme.

Research has shown that prescription charges put people off from collecting prescribed medicine. A survey of health professionals by the Royal College of Nursing found that 87% said they have had their patients skip their medication because of the cost of their prescription. Asthma UK also found that over three quarters of people with asthma in England struggle to afford their prescriptions and over half had cut back on their medication because of the price.  One in three sufferers with rheumatoid arthritis have not collected a prescription due to the cost: women are three times more likely than men to be diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.

As Jonathan Ashworth MP, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, said, “Tackling widening tackle health inequalities will be an absolute priority of the next Labour government. We know that the cost of prescriptions puts people off taking the medicine they need. Not only do people suffer illnesses and the effects of illnesses more than they need to but, in the long term, it costs the NHS more money because those people who don’t take their medicines present with even more serious conditions later on. People shouldn’t be forced to choose between paying for a prescription or risking their lives.”

“The NHS could actually save £20 million a year if they lifted prescription charges for people with just two conditions: Parkinson’s disease and inflammatory bowel disease.

“Labour made prescriptions free for people with cancer in 2008. The Tories have done nothing and exempt conditions have been otherwise unchanged for 50 years. People with Addison’s disease, chronic kidney disease, strokes, heart failure and a host of other long-term conditions must still pay for their medicine. In government, Labour will simply make all prescriptions free of charge.”

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