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Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Welsh Lib Dems call for free prescriptions and hospital parking to be scrapped

Free prescriptions and hospital car parking in Wales, could be scrapped under new plans unveiled at the Liberal Democrat’s conference yesterday.

The party’s health spokesperson, Jenny Randerson AM, has announced a range of new policy ideas which include getting rid of two of the Welsh Assembly Government’s flagship policies.

It quickly follows last week’s controversial call by the Welsh Liberal Democrats for more private money in the NHS.

Thankfully, the proposals rule-out the use of the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) to build new hospitals and for private clinics carrying out NHS operations, which the BMA warmly welcomes.

However, the policies raise more questions than answers.

Scrapping free prescriptions and hospital car parking charges are a mere smokescreen. If any politician genuinely believes that patients’ are missing out on the latest wonder drugs in the NHS as a result of these policies then, I’m sorry, they are wrong.

If politicians are serious about solving the dilemma of how patients should access the latest and expensive treatments and drugs then they need to be honest with themselves and engage in an open debate with the public about what the NHS CAN and CAN'T deliver.

The same goes for the use of private money. Any private investment in NHS Wales would surely come at a price. Can you honestly see any private investor or company investing in NHS Wales for purely altruistic reasons? Of course not, they’re in business to make money and not to treat patients.

So, I ask the simple question - what is wrong with a NHS free-at-the point of need, funded through general taxation? Perhaps all politicians, when considering new policies, would do well to reflect on these founding principles.

2 comments:

  1. Jenny Randerson AM18 September 2008 at 16:37

    Richard,

    I appreciate that you are on holiday and therefore, this posting may not represent your views as claimed in the title bar of the blog, but nethertheless, as this posting is in your name, I feel that I should respond to you.

    As I said in response to your previous posting on me, you should be very wary about responding to media reports rather than the issue that they are based on. My consultation paper, "A Health Service Fit For the Future" which I launched this week contains questions for party members to consider about the future of our health policy. The paper itself does not mention scrapping either free parking or prescriptions as part of the questions. It does ask the question whether in tough budgetary times some free services like this should be targeted at those most in need. This is part of a raft of big issues such as the integration of health and social care, the future of targets, encouraging GPs to stay in Wales and structural reorganisation to name a few.

    This is hardly a smoke screen, as you would know if you had seen the paper, perhaps then you would have thought differently about your misleading headline to this posting. I will shortly be sending this paper out and inviting views from health professionals and organisations seeking their views, but if you had wanted to approach me to discuss it before posting this piece, I would have been happy to send it to you immediately. Then you would have been able to post a piece based on fact.

    Jenny Randerson

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm grateful to Jenny Randerson for responding to my post regarding what was reported this week in the Welsh media this week as Lib Dem policy.

    It would have been helpful to the BMA, to have had a pre-publication copy of the report "A Health Service Fit for the Future". But we did not receive such a publication prior to the media reports.

    If we are misunderstanding Jenny Randerson's position on this, then no doubt the public will be equally confused as to what the position is.

    The BMA supports free prescriptions as it will achieve the most benefits for the most people. Inevitably in tough financial times, services have to be targetted in some way. However, previous analysis suggests that a prescription system that charges some and not others, simply spends an extortinate amount of money on bureaucracy to support it.

    On the matter of hospital car parking charges, this was clearly an uniniquitous tax on the sick and those visiting them. The arguments that this opens the door to abuse by those who simply park at hospitals for free to go shopping, does not really stand up. Surely it cannot be beyond the wit of 21st technology to weed those people out and ensure that car parking is used appropriately by those who need it. Our members have had extremely positive feedback from patients who welcomed this move.

    The BMA looks forward to receiving Jenny's paper "A Health Service Fit for the Future". It's unfortunate we read about it in the press first. And if there are inaccuracies in media reports about what Lib Dem health policy actually is, then maybe Jenny should seek a correction in those publications.

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