Perhaps the perpetual NHS crisis really has morphed into something serious, or perhaps it is just the result of NHS managers seeing sense, but plans are afoot to ensure a number of painkillers and other drugs freely available for much cheaper prices are no longer to be supplied at an extortionate mark-up on the NHS.
The Times reports that as part of a scheme to save over £1bn annually from the NHS budget, gluten free foodstuffs, indigestion pills, sun cream and hay fever remedies will no longer be provided by the taxpayer when they can be store-bought without prescription for significantly less than the Health Service pays for them.
‘Part of what we are trying to do is make sure that we make enough headroom to spend money on the innovative new drugs by not wasting it on these items,’ Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England told the paper. On the subject of gluten-free food, he added: ‘There’s no doubt that coeliac disease is an important medical condition… but when you look at the list of prescribable items it extends to digestive biscuits, pizzas and other products.’
Among the things under consideration is paracetamol, a long time bugbear given how much it costs the public purse when supplied ‘for free’ rather than bought for loose change in a Tesco store.
Whatever the reason behind the moves, some common sense in the ivory towers of NHS managers is surely a welcome sign. The service is a defunct operational model – but by wasting money for quite so long on quite so many things, they have helped create a rod for their own backs. Now, perhaps, they can sit back and observe that, if left to the market, people don’t actually need to have their sun cream, headache pills and gluten-free food bought for them; they can manage themselves.