Saturday, August 09, 2008

John Baron MP: FOI figures show NHS co-payments used to be allowed

MP says allowing patients to top-up would not mean the end of the NHS as we know it

Figures obtained by John Baron MP through Freedom of Information requests show that co-payments (or ‘top-ups’) were available in the NHS as recently as last year – before being stopped by guidance issued by the Department of Health. John has been campaigning against the ban on co-payments following the sad case of a constituent (Mrs Linda O’Boyle) who was refused funding for a cancer drug and then sought to pay privately. Under current arrangements, patients who go private for a drug not available on the NHS risk losing their entitlements to basic NHS care. Opponents of co-payments argue that topping-up would create a two-tier health service and undermine founding principles of the NHS. However, these new figures prove that co-payments were available in the past without any difficulties. A trust in Cornwall allowed 20 patients to co-pay for drugs which the NHS refused to fund before the ban was introduced.

Commenting, John said:

“The new figures show that co-payments were available in the NHS until last year without undermining its founding principles. Therefore, opponents of co-payments are wrong to argue they would mean the end of the NHS as we know it.”

“We always knew the present ban on top-ups is inhumane as it can result in NHS care being withdrawn from patients wishing to pay for drugs not available on the NHS. But these FOI figures also confirm the ban is illogical because it has been ignored in the past.”

“The latest NICE decision regarding the Bowel Cancer drugs shows just how far behind we are other European countries when it comes to patients accessing the latest treatments. This issue is not going away.”

From personal experience I know that the current situation regarding cancer drugs is perverse. NICE initially rejected the drug that saved my life, Velcade, and that decision almost certainly meant a number of people died in pain. The system couples that with making it impossible for people to pay for lifesaving drugs themselves, which means more early deaths and the attendant family tragedy. What kind of monsters are running our country? Don't they realise that these are real people, or maybe they just don't care.

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