LETTER: Prescription rise: no link to nurses' pay

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The Independent Online
From Ms Liz Winder

Sir: Health minister Gerry Malone argues that the revenue generated by the increase in prescription charges would help to fund the nurses' pay award ("Prescriptions rise by triple inflation rate", 23 February). But as Virginia Bottomley has already pointed out, the money to pay every nurse in the country 3 per cent in full is already in the system. NHS funding was increased by 4.5 per cent in real terms this year, more than enough to offer nurses a fair deal.

The rise in prescription charges by 50 pence, three times the rate of inflation, penalises the low paid. For those people requiring long-term medication, it could have a serious impact on their health as well as their pockets.

Despite Gerry Malone's assurances that 81 per cent of patients remain exempt from prescription charges, the fact is that many patients, for example transplant patients, are not exempt and require several different drugs every day for the rest of their lives. We could see those patients and those on low incomes selecting which drugs they will use on the basis of cost and not the advice of health care professionals.

The nurses pay award can in no way be linked to a rise in prescription charges. To suggest it does is misleading and potentially dangerous.

Yours faithfully,

LIZ WINDER

Royal College of Nursing

London, W1

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