Now NHS cuts are stripping basic medicines from the poor – Polly Toynbee

Polly Toynbee writes in the Guardian: “A creeping postcode lottery of cuts gradually erodes the ‘national’ in NHS. IVF, hip and knee operations are being cut back randomly in some regions. In some places patients can only get one cataract fixed: seeing with one eye is enough.

“Waiting lists for hospital care just topped 4 million people, waiting times lengthening as A&E admissions rise means fewer planned operations, with extreme variations by hospital. The NHS is ordered to cut an impossible£22bn by 2020 – but there is no national instruction as to what. Politically, it’s easier to leave local decision-makers to take the blame.

[…] “Many clinical commissioning groups (CCGs)… are banning GPs from prescribing anything that can be bought over the counter… Poorer patients… can’t afford the 22 drugs now banned for prescribing. ‘Low-income families often can’t afford ibuprofen, or gluten-free products for coeliac disease sufferers. A single mother on low pay with two children can’t afford the £10 it would cost for nit treatment.’

“Pain relief will be denied for those suffering headache, backache, toothache, migraine, fever or those needing antihistamines for hayfever, treatments for thrush or eye infections. With food banks handing out over a million emergency food kits and Unicef reporting that 10% of UK children suffer ‘severe food insecurity’, basic but essential over-the-counter medicines are beyond the budgets of households who struggle to provide meals.

“Equal access was the founding idea of the NHS, written into the NHS constitution. Until now, every health secretary has tried to iron out local variation. But abandoning the ‘national’ in the NHS was the intention of Andrew Lansley’s 2012 Health and Social Care Act, a deliberate fragmentation by tendering and intense competition, encouraging private providers and devolving priorities to the whim of local commissioners.

“Everywhere you look, around the margins of the NHS, services are shrinking back. Now the poorest are being denied basic pain relief and other treatments that most regard as absolutely essential treatments in everyday life.”

[Read Polly Toynbee’s full column on the Guardian website…]