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Health Politics

Labour pledges to end NHS prescription charges

The BMA claims patients often choose between paying a bill and buying food or paying for their prescription.

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The party claims the cost of prescriptions prevents many from taking the medicine they need.

Ahead of its party conference next week Labour has pledged to end NHS prescription charges in England.

Prescriptions are already free in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

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In England NHS prescription charges set at £9 per item but patients living in low-income households or those with multiple long-term health conditions are often exempt.

The British Medical Association and charities like Asthma UK have supported the pledge.

A false economy.

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth, who will announce the policy at the Labour party conference in Brighton, said: “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.”

Only earlier this month a report published today by Asthma UK uncovered the ‘harmful’ impact prescription charges are having on people with asthma.

‘Buying food or paying for their prescription’.

Dr. Farah Jameel from the BMA’s General Practitioner Committee said; “The BMA has repeatedly called for prescription costs to be abolished. Prescription charges can be a huge expense, particularly for patients living with long-term conditions. Getting rid of them will mean more people are able to take the medication they need without having to worry about how they make ends meet; how they choose between paying a bill and buying food or paying for their prescription.

“It will have a direct positive impact on improving patients’ health, making them less likely to need further GP or hospital care or be at risk of worsening health. This in turn, reduces the overall cost to the NHS in England.”

Health Politics

Bill calling for safer staffing legislation put before Parliament

There are now 43,671 vacant nursing posts throughout the NHS in England alone.

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Maria Caulfield

The Bill will seek to “establish legally enforceable nursing staffing levels in the NHS in England.”

Maria Caulfield, Conservative MP for Lewes, nurse and member of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), today brought a Bill designed “to establish legally enforceable nursing staffing levels in the NHS in England.”

The Bill comes as nursing vacancy rates hit a record high with 43,671 empty nursing posts in the NHS in England alone – leaving 12% of full-time nursing posts unfilled.

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In a report released today titled ‘Standing up for patient and public safety’, the RCN highlights the impact the nursing staffing crisis is having on patient safety.

Scotland recently secured new legislation on safe staffing and a nurse staffing law was introduced in Wales in 2016.

‘No one is responsible and no one is accountable’.

Ms Cauldfield said; “There is increasing evidence that the right number of qualified nurses can improve patient outcomes in terms of mortality, morbidity and quality of care and that conversely, an insufficient number of nurses can have a potentially life-threatening effect for patients.”

Presenting the primary aim of the Bill as; “to make the Government accountable for nursing levels in England, as currently no one is accountable for nursing levels in England and that is why we have such a high nursing vacancy rate.”

Before adding that the other aims of the Bill were ensuring the NHS has “a fully costed workforce strategy and nursing numbers” alongside ensuring training and development for nurses throughout their career.

Cauldfield controversially voted against scrapping the pay cap for NHS workers in 2017.

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Health Politics

Labour promises free home-care for the over 65s

People living with dementia currently face the highest costs for care.

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The over-65s will not have to pay for help with dressing, washing and meals.

The Labour Party is promising free personal care in England for those over-65s who are most in need of it, so they will not have to pay for help with dressing, washing and meals.

Currently, only people with low levels of savings receive publicly-funded personal care and there is state help with home costs and residential assistance for those with assets below £23,250. However, people living with dementia face the highest costs for care.

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They promise to introduce free personal care for all older people, providing help with daily tasks in their own homes and residential care; Free personal care will ensure people with dementia receive the same care as those with other conditions.

Labour claims the move will reduce the burden on unpaid carers and benefit the NHS by reducing delayed transfers of care from hospital and admissions to care homes and hospitals.

A million people are not getting the care they need.

At the Labour conference, shadow chancellor John McDonnell said the move would be funded out of general taxation. Also, that cuts to care funding since 2010 had left a million people not getting the care they need and “87 people dying a day waiting for care”.

Subsidising the cost of basic tasks such as getting in and out of bed and going to the toilet will enable more people to continue to live independently in their homes, he said. ” I believe the right to dignity in retirement is a part of that right to health at any stage of life.”

Free personal care is something campaigners have long been calling for in England as Scotland has already introduced it and Wales and Northern Ireland each provide some level of universal entitlement.

In Wales the cost of home care is capped, while in Northern Ireland the over-75s get it for free; Based on Scottish figures, Labour said the move could save those currently self-funding their care almost £10,000 a year while 70,000 fewer families would be liable for “catastrophic” lifetime care costs in excess of £100,000.

Mr McDonnell also pledged to close the gap in social care funding and give local authorities extra support to provide care so services are not outsourced to private firms; The King’s Fund think tank has estimated that free personal care could cost £6bn a year in 2020-21, rising to £8bn by 2030.

The organisation said Labour’s announcement was a welcome step but “it is not the same thing as free social care, and some people would still be left facing catastrophic costs.”

Care services have been pushed to the brink.

Further support to the care workforce has been pledged to ensure that older people receive support from trained staff who have the time and skills needed to provide care; As part of the National Care Service, Labour has pledged to raise standards of care by ending the use of zero-hour contracts and ensuring that carers are paid a real living wage, including for travel time. Also, to end 15-minute care visits and improve access to training and development for care staff.

Barbara Keeley MP, Labour’s Shadow Social Care and Mental Health Minister, said: “Nine years of cuts to local council budgets have pushed care services to the brink. For years, the Tories have failed to bring in much-needed reform, leaving too many people and their families struggling to afford the care they need.

“Tackling the crisis in social care is a priority for Labour. Our plans for social care will address the immediate crisis in care, double the number of people receiving publicly-funded care, and stop people with dementia being treated unfairly by the care system.

“It is vital that social care is a universally-available public service which provides dignity, security and compassionate care. Our National Care Service will have these principles at its core.”

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