Unfair ‘tax’ on asthma sufferers must be stopped – Julie Elliott MP

Do you agree with our MP's views on the "unfair tax" on asthmatics?
Do you agree with our MP's views on the "unfair tax" on asthmatics?

No one should have to pay to breathe – yet thousands of people with asthma in Sunderland are forced to do just that.

Shocking research from Asthma UK shows 80% of North East asthmatics struggle to afford the price of prescriptions, and more than half have cut back on medication due to cost.

Charges have risen 26% since 2010, compared to a much smaller increase in earnings over the same period.

The cost is now £9 per prescription item; a price far too high for many.

It is just not right that people with a long term and life-threatening condition are faced with the awful choice of either paying for essentials like food or picking up the medication they rely on.

There is no doubt this rationing of vital medication puts people’s lives at risk. According to Asthma UK, two out of three deaths from asthma could be prevented if people received the right basic care.

Last year, more than 460 people were hospitalised with asthma problems in Sunderland.

Each, and every, person with asthma in this city deserves access to the medication they need.

I have been contacted by a great many concerned constituents about this and, earlier this year, gave my backing to Asthma UK’s Stop Unfair Asthma Prescription Charges campaign.

I have also written to the Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, to ask what the Government can do to address the issue as a matter of urgency. I await his reply.

It is time, I believe, to look again at prescription costs as a whole.

Charges for several long-term conditions, such as epilepsy and diabetes, were abolished more than 50 years ago, and quite rightly so, but modern medical advances mean the old list of ailments is out of date.

There are now nationwide calls for prescription exemptions to be extended not only to asthmatics, but also those with conditions such as Parkinson’s and Inflammatory Bowel Disease.

It has been estimated that the NHS could save millions each year from reduced A&E admissions, hospital stays and GP appointments – if only the barrier of prescription costs was removed.

People shouldn’t be left struggling to breathe because they can’t afford prescription costs.

It is time to stop to this unfair ‘tax’ on asthma and other long term, life-threatening conditions.