It was right to abolish prescription charges for cancer patients

Contributed by editor on Jan 22, 2009 - 03:00 PM

The Prosser Perspective.... a weekly column from Dover and Deal MP Gwyn

22 January 2009

Dealing with case work and helping people with their individual
problems takes up more and more of an MP’s time these days and Dover
& Deal is a particularly busy constituency for this kind of work.

Case work throws up thousands of different issues covering every
aspect of modern living and all the complexities of human nature.
Some people’s problems might seem relatively trivial to the casual
observer but to the constituent it’s often the most important thing
in the world.

Of all the matters brought to my advice surgeries and street stalls
the most difficult to deal with are the issues brought to me from
victims of cancer and their distraught families. There are those who
have had difficulty accessing the life-saving or life-prolonging
drugs they’ve been recommended and others who have difficulty paying
for the medication they’ve been prescribed.

Decisions on which drugs should be administered to which patients
are made by the independent agency known as the National Institute
for Clinical Excellence or NICE. Contrary to popular belief, the
institute’s decisions are not based on the size of the drugs bill.
NICE advises the NHS on which treatments are both clinically and
cost effective. Their role is to consider whether the claims of the
pharmaceutical companies are backed by the evidence and a careful
judgment is made about what represents value for money for the

Despite this careful scrutiny I am sometimes approached by cancer
sufferers who’s circumstances are, in my mind, exceptional and I
take these cases to the Secretary of State and plead their cause to
the Chief Executive of the Primary care trust and to the local
decision making panel. Thankfully, these representations are usually

As to the second category – those who can’t afford the medication
they are prescribed – help is at hand. I have been a long-time
supporter of Macmillan Cancer Support, I’ve been pleased to be part
of their campaign to scrap drug charges for cancer sufferers and I’m
delighted that my Government has acted on our recommendations.

From today, people being treated for cancer, who hold a medical
exemption certificate, will be eligible for free prescriptions from
1st April and they will be able to apply for their certificates at
any time from today. The new scheme extends exemption from NHS
prescription charges for everyone undergoing treatment for cancer,
the effects of cancer, or the effects of cancer treatment.

This new scheme gives people living with cancer one less worry at
such a difficult time and I would urge patients to make an
appointment with their GP this week to talk about applying for their
exemption certificates in good time.

I’m so pleased the Government has listened to our pleas and
abolished prescription charges for cancer patients. This was
absolutely the right thing to do because cancer not only threatens
your life, it can impact seriously on your general wellbeing and
your pocket. Free prescriptions will transform the lives of
thousands of people living with cancer who in the past have been
struggling to meet their bills for the essential drugs that offer
them a hopeful future.