A prescription for the economy – better health in the long term

Asthma UK’s Neil Churchill argues that if the government are so keen to introduce tax cuts as stimulus, prescription charges should be first to go.

 

By Neil Churchill, chair of the Prescription Charges Coalition and chief executive of Asthma UK

The prospect of tax cuts is on the agenda as we approach the Budget. But if there is money to reignite that long lost feel-good factor and kick start growth by putting a bit of cash back in people pockets, how fairly will it be distributed?

One proposal would aid the squeezed middle who most need it: those with long-term conditions. The strain of recession doesn’t just make people feel bad, it makes them ill.

There are 15.4 million people in England with long term medical conditions and with dramatic increases to the cost of food, energy and transport, many are now struggling to afford their prescriptions and putting their health at risk by reducing or rationing their medicines.

An Asthma UK survey found that 34 per cent of people who pay for their prescriptions sometimes chose not to get some of their medicines because of the cost. Non-compliance with medication is a leading cause of avoidable and costly hospital admissions for asthma.

The prescription charges coalition is campaigning for a freeze on prescription charges until the next general election to make everyday medicines more affordable and keep people out of hospital.

This will benefit the huge numbers of patients whose medical conditions do not entitle them to free prescriptions, and who have been stung by rises in prescription charges every one of the last 15 years.

Research published by Rethink Mental Illness showed that 38 per cent of people with severe mental illnesses like schizophrenia have had to choose between paying household bills and paying prescription charges. People with long-term conditions are a significant voter population and many feel passionate about prescription charges.

They are disappointed with a Labour Party that never kept its promise to make prescription charges free and a coalition government that just says they can’t afford to introduce a fairer system.

This issue has been brewing for a while – surveys conducted as far back as 2009 show 37 per cent of people with asthma stated that the recession was making it harder for them to afford their prescriptions. However, the recent sharp increases in living costs could put more people at risk of being hospitalised unnecessarily for long-term conditions they have lived with and managed for many years.

It is quick and simple to support the e-petition and it could make a real difference. If it reaches 100,000 signatures, this issue will be debated in parliament. However, several thousand signatures would raise the profile of this issue enough for MPs to call the government to account in advance of the spring budget statement. That could mean a brighter outlook for the health of the nation and the economy.

The e-petition for a freeze on prescription charges can be found here: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/25087.

See also:

Scots support “devo-max” as new Tory leader distances herself from Cameron – Ed Jacobs, November 7th 2011

New warnings over UK cancer drug divide – Ed Jacobs, August 30th 2011

Holyrood vote exposes Tory splits on free prescriptions – Ed Jacobs, March 3rd 2011

Should we defend the middle class welfare state? – Ben Baumberg, October 17th 2010

Irish budget cuts praised by British Tories but criticised at home – Duncan Weldon, December 10th 2009

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20 Responses to “A prescription for the economy – better health in the long term”

  1. New Think Tank

    A prescription for the economy – better health in the long term, by @AsthmaUK’s Neil Churchill: http://t.co/gO9E6Ck9

  2. Skidders

    Sick people are often poor, and poor people are often sick. The fundamental reason why charging people at the… http://t.co/WDOZVa6L

  3. Patron Press - #P2

    #UK : A prescription for the economy – better health in the long term http://t.co/JM1aBo2l

  4. Political Planet

    A prescription for the economy – better health in the long term: Asthma UK’s Neil Churchill argues that if the g… http://t.co/nGvcnwGH

  5. Daggsat

    Well done, you managed to get through all of that without ever mentioning the fact. It’s only the people of England who pay……..

  6. Anonymous

    This tax cut will generate no growth. Since its paid for by people who could generate growth, it’s a negative.

  7. Anonymous

    Who the fecking hell are these squeezed bloody middle class Labour loves to talking about, I’m disabled but when I was working I had the min wage and I never felt middle class this week labour finally stated the middle class are people who are working, so you have to be in work and we are told paying tax to be middle class.

    Labour pointed out people who earn between £12,000 and £30,000 are in fact middle class which interesting so lets see what do you now do with the sub epecies who are on the dole, or disabled like myself ignore us.

    real New labour hype

    I’m living in Wales so get it free.

  8. leftlinks

    Left Foot Forward – A prescription for the economy – better health in the long term http://t.co/bQlGnTVq

  9. PoliticsUK

    http://t.co/PVXSFYuK
    Should prescriptions be free for all in England? http://t.co/54ZLzK4R

  10. Richard Blogger

    No. Didn’t you read it? 34% of asthma sufferers do not follow their medicine regime because of the cost of prescription charges. The medicine helps them avoid a crisis that needs A&E (or admitted ) treatment. So in the long run, free prescriptions will actually save money. And since a proportion of those people will be working and paying taxes better health from taking their prescriptions will mean a contribution to the economy and tax. So it will contribute to growth.

  11. SocialistProductions

    Sick people are often poor, and poor people are often sick. The fundamental reason why charging people at the… http://t.co/WDOZVa6L

  12. Mr. Sensible

    I think such an idea has benefits, and I would hope we can work towards it.

  13. TheCreativeCrip

    A prescription for the economy – better health in the long term, by @AsthmaUK’s Neil Churchill: http://t.co/gO9E6Ck9

  14. Bob Lloyd

    Sick people are often poor, and poor people are often sick. The fundamental reason why charging people at the… http://t.co/WDOZVa6L

  15. BevR

    RT @leftfootfwd: A prescription for the economy – better health in the long term http://t.co/kE1vPLPc #wrb #spartacusreport #Unum #atos

  16. Patrick

    Correct me if I am wrong, but don’t people with ‘serious mental illnesses’ like schizophrenia already get free prescriptions either because (a) they have a ‘specified medical condition’ or (b) they are not working and receive income support which makes them automatically entitled.

    If they’re choosing between prescriptions and household bills, then how about free household bills for those not working? Gas, electricity, phone, and TV licence all paid for by the state. Because they’re essentials, right? And what about food? We have to ensure people are eating. So how about free groceries for all those not working? And transport. In a civilized society, people shouldn’t be barred from car ownership just because they’re poor, right? Let’s provide a free car, to everyone not working. I mean, it’s only fair, right? It’s socialism.

  17. Carolyn Anderson

    RT @leftfootfwd: A prescription for the economy – better health in the long term http://t.co/FCCyW6Mp

  18. Hughes Syndrome

    Campaign to put a freeze on prescription charges has reached 2k! @asthmauk has article published on political blog http://t.co/c05QNuBJ

  19. Beth Willis

    Campaign to put a freeze on prescription charges has reached 2k! @asthmauk has article published on political blog http://t.co/c05QNuBJ

  20. Lesley Dale

    Campaign to put a freeze on prescription charges has reached 2k! @asthmauk has article published on political blog http://t.co/c05QNuBJ

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