We frequently cite the horror stories of the insurance based health care system in the US when we talk about the need to defend the NHS, but the problem that most of us haven’t realised is that it is no longer a philosophical debate about something we might one day ourselves face- it is already starting to seep under the door. I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced it, but needing health care or medication and not being able to get access to it for any reason is a terrifying experience. However, this is a reality that is playing out for an increasing number of people in the UK today.
Last year it emerged that the NHS was to cut free prescriptions for many over the counter medicines. They pitched it to us that ‘wasteful’ prescriptions such as homeopathic remedies were being scrapped to pay for things like cancer treatments, but the list included medicines for conditions such as conjunctivitis and cystitis which can be serious if not treated properly at the earliest onset. Cutting access to medicine is not a new idea. It is already here and has been for years. What this will do is merely embed the policy, normalise it, and lead to further sanctions in the future. I have both epilepsy and asthma. Currently in England, I can receive medication for epilepsy free on the NHS if I needed it (which mercifully I don’t at present), as can diabetics. That isn’t the case for people with asthma, even though all three of these conditions can become life threatening in a matter of seconds. Three years ago a 19 year old woman called Holly Worboys died from an asthma attack as she struggled to afford inhalers on a low income. In a survey by Asthma UK it was found that three quarters of diagnosed asthmatics struggled to pay for their medication. Holly’s death isn’t an isolated one. Over the last few years, the news has been filled with countless stories of people who have lost their lives as a result of benefits sanctions, all with names and loved ones who’s lives have also been ruined from grief.
As with all atrocities committed in the name of austerity, further cuts will only ever affect the people that need it the most, and the latest move is sure to have an immediate, direct impact on the health and wellbeing of thousands of people. Lack of access to early treatment will also lead to more serious long term medical conditions, which ultimately leads to bigger financial implications later on. This is why I have never understood cuts made to early intervention services, be it medicine, domestic abuse, homeless prevention, or mental health. These schemes have always proved to save costs in the long run as they lessen the impact on hospitals, policing, courts and social services.
But I’ve come to realise that this government’s weaponisation of poverty is not just real, it is entirely deliberate. A tired and sick population doesn’t fight too well against the violence they continue to inflict on its citizens and land. Police forces in Manchester and Lancashire police have admitted that they have given intel on disabled people involved in peaceful protest, including the anti-fracking demonstrations which serves no purpose other than to intimidate. We are told constantly how grateful we should be to have freedom of speech, but how free is that when the authorities threaten to remove our means of survival either via benefits or wages if we step out of line? In the age of welfare sanctions, people already living well below the poverty line are being charged £20 in many parts of the country for doctors letters giving them the proof that they need to claim. It was estimated in a 2017 that 120000 people have died as a direct result of austerity, yet still the government ignores this and continues to put further impositions on those who have the least.
Then there is Brexit. The toxic, massively self-destructive drunk uncle who tells increasingly ridiculous stories about his non-existent achievements that you are dreading coming to your wedding. You can’t do anything to stop it because your mam invited him and now no one in the family is speaking to each other through arguing about it. Brexit is set to massively disrupt our access and import of thousands of medicines. But before you put your fingers in your ears and yell “project fear” at me, as indeed I myself might have done a year or so ago, have a look at how the currently system works. Ingredients sourced in India are then transported to factories in Europe to be made into medicines, which then go to wholesalers for distribution. They are not something we can grow in our back gardens in whatever Dig For Victory fantasy Boris Johnson is trying to sell us. If anything it would look more like a Breaking Bad style meth lab in your kitchen as you desperately try to make penicillin from a YouTube video while the kids cry about having to eat nettles for tea again.
At the moment, a prescription costs £8.60 in England. It’s been over a year since I was diagnosed with asthma and I have only just been told about the prescription prepayment certificates that are available by my pharmacist after the medicines I required due to a bad chest infection that nearly put me in hospital came to over £40. The certificates cost £104 a year or £29.10 for three months, but that will cover all the prescriptions you require during that period and is worth getting if you have regular or multiple prescriptions. Some respite maybe, however even this reduced rate is too much for people who are struggling and we are seeing an increase of patients on low incomes admitting that they are going without vital medicine in order to be able to pay for other essentials. Saving it only for ‘emergencies’ as Holly Worboys was trying to do with the last dose of her inhaler. Her family and charities are calling for asthma medication to be made available for free. This I fully support, as no person should lose their life so needlessly. But all prescription charges should be scrapped as they are in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. More so, politicians should be made criminally accountable for creating a situation where supply chains could be halted or delayed because they lied about having any plan that could be actualised effectively. With Brexit it doesn’t matter if you voted leave or remain, no one voted for the catastrophe we are currently facing. Let’s stop with mechanically repeating learned soundbites like “Brexit means Brexit” and “project fear” whenever someone points out facts with obvious concerns that need to be addressed. None of us voted for what is coming and reluctance to admit that the outcome of the referendum is going to be a disaster because we feel it makes us look bad is not a good enough reason to blind ourselves to the facts. The only people looking to benefit are the ones who should be truly ashamed of themselves: The rich politicians and CEO’s who didn’t want to be made to pay more tax and made a catalogue of undeliverable promises to get what they wanted. They will never starve or be denied medicine, because they’ve already created strategies on how to save themselves, but not the rest of us.
Safety is one of the most basic requirements in our hierarchy of needs. It’s not something we should be allowing the state to vote on or health bodies deciding for us. On who is allowed to get well and who doesn’t. Who gets the latest, more effective treatments and who can’t. The health of us as a population is something we should all be concerned with.
Sickness has ripple effects on us all and it is in our interest to look at health collectively. Don’t enable self serving, obnoxious incompetents who couldn’t switch a kettle on by repeating their piss weak catchphrases for them. Hold your representatives accountable, don’t keep calm and stop fighting with your mate who voted the opposite to you so you can direct your anger where it’s needed.
Revolution Time- Liberty https://open.spotify.com/track/3KJwjGjZ3AGQJyx5P7pK8r?si=i2x0wsKVQAO0LKCU9PAAEg