Magazine article Public Finance

Yes, We Can

Magazine article Public Finance

Yes, We Can

Article excerpt

It was a no-win situation for the health secretary. On the controversial issue of top-up fees, Alan Johnson knew he would be upbraided by the unions if he said 'yes' and pilloried by patients, not to mention the Daily Mail, if he continued to say 'no.

This week, in accepting Professor Mike Richards' recommendations, Johnson decided that patients in England can pay for private drugs without losing their right to free NUS care. To minimise the need for such co-payments, however, a wider range of medicines will be freely available on the NHS.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence will speed up its appraisal process for new drugs and look more favourably on higher-cost treatments for terminally ill people. Meanwhile, the Department of Health is negotiating more flexible pricing deals with the pharmaceutical companies.

This is a practical and shrewd alternative to a policy that all sides accept has been applied in a cruel and sad way. It maintains the NHS s guiding principle - of being free at the point of need - while not penalising people who choose to pay privately in the hope of extending their lives by weeks or months. …

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