Belfast Telegraph

Rethink on prescriptions needed

Editor's Viewpoint

In these difficult financial times there is bound to be growing pressure for our politicians to take a harder look at prescription fees.

At one time many people welcomed free prescriptions as signs of growing economic progress and confidence. This newspaper was fully behind this development, but times have changed and many of us are now living in straitened circumstances.

However, we have every sympathy with people suffering from chronic illness as well as those who depend greatly on their medication, and consideration should be given to their needs.

Nevertheless, there are much wider issues to be contemplated. For example, the high costs are almost always blamed for the lack of availability of some drugs, including revolutionary medication for the treatment of cancer.

There might even be a strong argument for a recalibration of drug supply in terms of who pays for what, so that an economically vulnerable section of the population is not ruled out altogether from receiving vital medicine.

In these tough times many hard-working people feel that they have paid for healthcare from their taxes and they are entitled to be given what they need.

Certainly, low-paid workers have a genuine right to feel like that, but the overall budget for medication has to cover the needs of many different people.

Undoubtedly there is wastage, and who among us will deny with total honesty that there are no unused prescription drugs in our medicine cabinets?

Who among us will admit that we seek prescriptions for certain medicines that can be bought over the counter comparatively cheaply without choosing to add a further burden on the NHS?

This whole area of provision needs a rethink, and there should be no sacred cows. Everything that can contribute to a more economical and better-utilised prescriptions service should be put forward for discussion in the best possible interests of everyone.

One person's unused drugs might well help to save the lives and improve the health of others, so apart from the aim of making the health budget stretch further, there may be a moral incentive as well. This is one area where we should think of our neighbours and not just ourselves.

Belfast Telegraph


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