Information for those with Ulcerative Colitis

Petition for Free Prescriptions for those with long term health conditions

On the 07 March 2012 Janine Edbrooke launched a petition on the Government e-petition site to lobby for free prescriptions for people with long term health consitions.

" To implement the outcome of Professor Ian Gilmore's 2009 prescription charges review for those with long term health conditions, which recommended abolishing prescription charges for all people with long term health conditions. "

You can now sign this petition at -

http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/3049


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Petition FAQs and Views from Colitis UK

1) Why do you think prescriptions should be free

The underlying principle of the NHS is that treatment should be free at the point of delivery. The fact is that many acute and chronic illnesses are treated by the medium to long term use of prescription drugs. This effectively means that patients suffering from these diseases only get free diagnosis - and not free treatment.
If the same principle were applied fairly across the NHS then this would be the end result - Take for example that you went to casualty with a leg injury. You had some gashes and a fracture. Applying the same principles -

1) They would diagnose your injury for free - including the X-Ray and doctors consultation.
2) They would charge you a fee for each treatment you needed -

  • 7.10 for the bandages under the plaster
  • 7.10 for the plaster
  • 7.10 to remove the plaster at the end
  • 7.10 for your tetanus
  • 7.10 for the stitches

Unfortunately people with Chronic Illnesses face this type of bill as not just a one off cost - but as a life long drain on their finances. Many end up skipping vital medication or "Stretching" their medication to make ends meet. Often this adds an extra burden to the NHS when the same patients end up requiring acute treatment in hospital.

2) Do sufferers of some diseases get free prescriptions

Yes the sufferers of the following conditions get free prescriptions -

  • A permanent fistula requiring dressing.
  • Forms of hypoadrenalism such as Addison's Disease.
  • Diabetes insipidus and other forms of hypopituitarism.
  • Diabetes mellitus except where treatment is by diet alone.
  • Hypoparathyroidism.
  • Myasthenia gravis.
  • Myxoedema (underactive thyroid) or other conditions where supplemental thyroid hormone is necessary.
  • Epilepsy requiring regular anti-epilepsy medication.
  • If, because of a permanent disability, you cannot leave your home without help.

On the other hand sufferers of the following life threatening chronic conditions don't -

The list appears to be wholly arbitrary - and clearly unfair. The government has to recognise that prescription drugs are now the front line of treatment.

3) Are there any medicines that should be excluded

We believe that certain drugs such as non-prescription pain killers and drugs with no evidence of efficacy should be excluded. This is mainly to avoid unnecessary GP visits.

4) Don't those on low income get free prescriptions anyway

Technically yes - but in reality no. The governments definition of low income is far below what most people would consider low income. This is also a means tested benefit - and most people choose not to apply for means tested benefits.
The reality is that if your income is about £3-6 more per week than you would receive in unemployment benefits then you probably don't qualify. For example most single people earning the national minimum wage wouldn't qualify.
In addition to this people on low income quite often can't afford to pay £100 up front for an annual pre-payment - and can't pay by direct debit as they only have basic bank accounts.

5) Won't the costs bankrupt the NHS

Whilst it is hard to prove we expect that making prescriptions free for life threatening diseases would produce a net saving for the NHS. There is a tendency with such diseases for patients to be in denial when the disease is well controlled. They often then cease using the medication - partly to save costs of the prescriptions.
This results in extra consultant visits (about £100 each), hospital stays (About £200 per night - or about £2,000 per episode) and can also result in major surgery (J-Pouch £8,000 to £15,000). These costs probably far outweigh the extra £100 of revenue from each sufferer.

6) Who decides what drugs should be prescribed

The decision for which drugs should be prescribed lies with the National Institute for Clinical Excellency (NICE).

7) What other unfair anomalies exist in the current system

We believe the prescription charge should be treated as a per month charge or per-episode charge - and not a per-item charge. As a very minimum the charge should be changed immediately to a per-prescription charge rather than per-item.

  • Currently if a doctor prescribes a medication - and it doesn't work as the diagnosis was incorrect then the patient has to pay a new charge for the medication that will (or may) work. This is common in medicine as treatment is often a process of elimination/trial and error.
  • If a condition requires multiple medications then the patient has to pay multiple charges. This is unfair as it reflects only the current type of preparations available to treat the condition. It doesn't relate to the cost of the drugs - as they may all be inexpensive. For example a skin infection may be best treated by a combination of a topical cream and oral antibiotics.

Most of all - no one should have to make a choice between which medication they will get because they are unable to avoid all the items prescribed to them. If a GP thinks someone needs medication then they should be able to obtain it without excessive cost.

 
 


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