'This year Parkinson’s UK took three major campaigns to the Liberal Democrats, Labour and Conservative party conferences. Key among them was asking party stalwarts to support our call for people with long term conditions to get free prescriptions.
Conferences provide the perfect opportunity to garner support on issues as policy makers, politicians and local party activists are there to build excitement and momentum for the coming year. One important way of achieving this is finding campaigns that would engage more people in their work, because winning these campaigns would clearly improve people’s lives.
The longstanding iniquity of a situation whereby a medical list that is nearly 50 years old dictates who is, and who is not, eligible for free prescriptions is a compelling point. With the exception of those who had worked on health, everyone we spoke with at party conferences was shocked that the prescription policy in England is based on such outdated information.
We took people with Parkinson's to each conference with us. Couples Charlie and Sue, and Ronnie and Suzette did a great job explaining how important medication is for people with Parkinson's, and how the costs can quickly mount up. They also confirmed that many people with long term conditions are not told about the pre-payment certificate.
Many MPs were surprised to learn that the cost of giving medication to everyone with a long term condition would be such a small proportion of the current NHS budget, and they keenly listened to the personal stories we relayed of people who had suffered the consequences of rationing their medication.
Unfortunately the Government does not have the data on the cost of emergency admissions due to not taking medication to the NHS. Not to mention the related costs to the economy of time off work.
We are now following up on many relationships we developed with MPs who were keen to push this issue in parliament, whether by asking questions or putting in for a debate. Some even offered contacts in academia who they thought might be able to assist in putting together the evidence on the associated costs of people being unable to afford all their medication.
Now, the campaign continues as we build up to the 50 anniversary of the original (and barely changed) medical exemption list. We know we are now even better placed to take this work forward with the passionate support we have been offered from MPs across the House.