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NHS news in brief

Our weekly round-up of NHS and healthcare stories.

Lib Dems set health manifesto

The Liberal Democrats have promised an independent review of prescription charges if they are elected into power. Launching the party's health manifesto, Liberal Democrat leader, Charles Kennedy, said that his party had put aside £225m in its spending plans for the review, together with £1.35bn to prevent ìhidden waitsî. He also said that it was unfair that many people with long-term illnesses had to pay for their treatments, while patients with diabetes and epilepsy received free medication.

Prescription charge to increase

The cost of an NHS prescription will rise by 10p from April 1, taking the total cost to £6.50, health minister Rosie Winterton has announced. The hike marks the seventh consecutive increase in as many years and is expected to make the NHS £452m in 2005-06. The maximum NHS dental charge will also increase by £6 to £384, while the value of optical vouchers to help people on low incomes with the cost of glasses or contact lenses will increase by 2.5 per cent. Approximately half the population is entitled to free prescriptions.

Unison wins equal pay case

Women working at the North Cumbria Acute NHS Trust have won the biggest equal pay award in British history. Public service union, Unison, revealed that 1,500 women working at the Trust have won back-pay totaling £300m as part of a case brought by Unison eight years ago which argued that men and women should be paid the same for work of equal value. The women are expected to receive between £35,000 to £200,000 each in pay dating back to 1991.

Targets put A&E care at risk

The government's target of ensuring that 97 per cent of A&E patients are seen within four hours may be putting patients at risk, the British Medical Association (BMA) has claimed. A BMA survey found that 50 per cent of A&E departments believe that pressure to meet the target meant that patients were moved inappropriately, while 40 per cent said that patients had been discharged before proper assessment. The government dismissed the survey's findings, claiming that it painted a ìdistorted pictureî.

30th September 2008

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