Tuesday 23 September 2008

Prescriptions pressure brings progress

Gordon Brown's move on cutting prescription charges on cancer patients was extremely popular in the hall, as Labour members acclaimed the 60th anniversary of the NHS, and is a good example of popular fairness which should resonate in the country too.

That cancer patients have to pay prescription charges shows how out of date the list of exemptions has become.

So this is an important victory for the campaigning of the major health and cancer charities.

And Brown argued that this should be part of a bigger 'fairness' agenda to end prescription charges for all patients with long-term conditions.

And this is not the limit of our commitment to a fair NHS. In the long term, as the NHS generates cash savings in its drugs budget, we will plough them back into abolishing charges for all patients with long-term conditions."

The government may not have (yet) gone quite as far as Tim Horton and I proposed in Fabian Review and Tribune articles last May (reported here), as we submitted for the Labour manifesto process proposals for the phased and gradual abolition of all prescription charges as resources allow.

But this is a major progressive step down that road.

Again, it offers a challenge to the opposition. Cameron says his priority in politics can be summed up in three letters: ‘NHS’. I expect he will concede on this one pretty easily.

And reducing charges gives money back to people – though in a different way from tax cuts.

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