The governmentâ€™s visceral hatred of co-payment for health is as absurd as it is dangerous. Practically everyone who uses the NHS practises co-payment. The very system Labour set up more than half a century ago soon required co-payment in the form of prescription charges. It always allowed private sector pharmacies to offer over the counter drugs to people for self treatment, or for treatment under the advice of the pharmacist. NHS Doctors have been known to tell people to buy an over the counter drug rather than a prescription one where this could be cheaper or better for them.
The discovery that the Health Secretary now thinks that if someone buys some drugs that are not available on the NHS from a private Doctor they should be banned from all NHS treatment for that condition is bad and mad. Logically on this Labour view if I try to treat myself for an ailment at home using over the counter medicines, and then have to go the GP because it is not working, he should say I have no right to free treatment for that as I have been spending my own money directly on the condition. Co-payment and alternative systems are fundamental to meeting the real pressures on health care in this country. The NHS could not manage without a flourishing pharmacy sector alongside it to handle many of the day to day and smaller items. Ending prescription charges and charges for eyes and teeth would leave a big hole in the accounts.
This looks like more evidence that this government is reverting to class war as its main reason for being. The so called humour of the Crewe by-election clearly has a greater significance. If even more consumer friendly and sometimes rational politicians like Alan Johnson are now declaring war on those who have earned or saved so they can supplement the medicines available on the NHS we are in for more of a hard pounding. The bad news is we may have two more years of this. The good news is that the assault on Middle England is now so severe that it just means even more Labour MPs will lose their seats when the day of reckoning can be stalled no longer.
This measure is mean minded. It is also politically incompetent. Donâ€™t they even read the polls I thought they believed in? Most people see nothing wrong with people being able to supplement NHS care from their own funds. Most people understand that if you tried to ban co payment comprehensively it would just drive private medicine offshore, limiting it more to the rich.