Thousands of casualties at a hospital A&E are being forced to pay prescription charges for the first time.
Patients visiting the University Hospital of North Staffordshire's (UHNS) emergency department are being charged a fee of £7.65 for each drug they need.Drugs that, had they seen a GP, they would have equally had to pay for? If so, then it’s a change that’s long overdue.
Now health campaigners have criticised the charges as breaching the NHS founding principle that care is free at the point of delivery.
And they are to seek a ruling from the ombudsman on whether the move is lawful.Except the principle was never that the NHS would be ‘free at the point of delivery’, rather, that it would be ‘paid for at the point of delivery’.
Aneurin Bevan never anticipated the legions of foreign health tourists or the perpetually workshy who would never, ever pay in to a system, only ever take out.
He probably never envisaged the sight of A&Es filled to the brim not with the true accidents or emergencies, but with those who have drunk or drugged or fought themselves into a state where they need medical attention…
Stoke-on-Trent South MP Rob Flello, who is to raise the issue with hospital managers, said: "We need to know if it is just to bring it into line with the rest of North Staffordshire. Or is it another way for the Government to take money from people?"Because you’d rather people took money from the NHS instead? That merely comes from the Big Magic Money Tree, I suppose?
A joint statement from the UHNS and the area's primary care trusts said: "More than three-quarters of patients don't pay for their prescriptions.
"But the legislation changed some years ago to allow A&E departments to charge, except for immediately necessary drugs for serious emergencies. "The money collected by the hospital is paid back centrally.
"However hospitals failing to collect charges still have to pay it back. This means that the hospital would have less money available for other services."Well, quite!
Since the Haywood and Leek brought in the fees, record numbers of people have flooded into A&E, leading to it being fined more than £2 million for missing Government treatment time targets.It seems a measure designed to stop abuse of the A&E facilities is only effective when everyone signs up to it. Who knew?