This is a sometimes 'cheesey' blog about British and American politics and anything else which tickles my fancy!

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Labour's free cancer drug scheme

It has largely gone unnoticed by the British press and the vast majority of people, mainly due to events on the other side of the Atlantic, but this week the government showed that it still had some life left in it.

On Tuesday, the Health Secretary Alan Johnson, announced that up to 150,000 cancer patients in the UK can now start applying for free prescriptions on the NHS. This comes in the wake of Gordon Brown's announcement last September that he was abolishing charges for the treatment of cancer from April this year.

Under the proposals, patients can apply for certificates which would entitle them to all NHS prescriptions free of charge.

This will mainly affect cancer patients with long term conditions and it is estimated that it could save each patient approximately £100 a year. In the long term, five million people will be affected.

I mention this story because there is a quiet revolution in cancer care going on in this country which has largely been ignored.

A few weeks ago, the government reversed its decision to stop patients who want to 'top up' their treatment by going private from doing so. It also recommended to NICE (the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence) that the criteria under which cancer drugs are judged will change, so that more people suffering from long term rarer cancers will now get the funding for drugs from their PCT, that they desperately need.

Not only does cancer threaten your life, it can also makes you poor. The government has at long last recognised this. By abolishing prescription charges for cancer patients it will transform the lives of thousands of people who are battling various forms of cancer.

This is exactly the sort of progressive policy Labour should be responsible for. It shows that as a government we are still capable, even under the most trying economic circumstances, of helping people in a fair and proper way.

It is worth noting that the Conservatives had no such policy to do the same. If they got in, would some of their proposed tax cuts chip away at policies like this, for instance? You bet.

The message: Labour still has the ideas and is still capable of doing the right thing.

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