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Issue Date:- 10 November 2008


“ENCOURAGING some patients and their families to make the heartbreaking decision to use their savings to pay for expensive drugs, undermines the very principles of the NHS” said UNISON, the UK¹s largest public sector union.  The union is opposing the introduction of one healthcare system for the rich and another for the poor, following the announcement that patients will be allowed to use private drugs to top-up their NHS care. 

UNISON argued vociferously during the short consultation period for a range of measures to eradicate the need for top-ups.  This included speeding up the approval process for new drugs by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) and for clear and consistent guidelines to Primary Care Trusts (PCTs), to eliminate the drug postcode lottery.  In addition, UNISON argued that the Government should be more hard-nosed in its negotiations with big multinational drug companies. 

Karen Jennings, UNISON Head of Health said:- “We want to see the best for patients and the current system needs changing, but introducing top-ups, even for a small number, will shake the very foundations of the NHS.  The principle that it is there for you at your time of greatest need, without having to worry about cost or affordability, is one worth fighting for. 

This review was only four months long and should have been used to start a mature debate on co-payments and the NHS, rather than initiating a rush to introduce top-ups.  The welcome new measures on streamlining the NICE process and extracting greater value from the pharmaceuticals industry should be allowed to take effect before jumping the gun and allowing top-ups. 

There is a very real danger that introducing top-ups for drugs will open the floodgates in other areas.  There is a whole raft of policies waiting in the wings that will further encroach on the principle of healthcare based on need, not ability to pay. 

We have already seen in dentistry large numbers of people struggling to find a dentist and there are now proposals to introduce personal budgets that will inevitably lead to more top-up care.  The new EU directive on cross-border healthcare also recommends that patients pay up front if they go abroad for treatment and are reimbursed later up to the cost in the NHS. 

It¹s time drug companies faced up to their social responsibilities and cut the cost of their outrageously expensive drugs.  These multi-national companies spend more on marketing than they do on research and development.  They could play a major role in ensuring patients get the drugs they need without having to resort to top-ups."

Gateway Scheme Gets Go-Ahead

A SCHEME to remove one of the biggest bottlenecks in the Livepool road system has taken a major step forward. 

The Government has approved the side road orders and compulsory purchase order for the Hall Lane Strategic Gateway scheme, a project which will vastly improve the route into the city centre from the M62. 

A public inquiry into the road orders and CPO for land needed for the scheme was held in April last year.  At the start of the inquiry there were three objections to the CPO, but these were withdrawn. 

“This means that we can make real progress on a scheme which has the support of the local community as well as road users.  The city needs first-rate gateways into our centre; that is a key part of our regeneration.  The Hall Lane scheme will do that, helping both motorists and pedestrians and providing a much better image for visitors.  And it will produce a much better environment for the neighbourhood. 

It will also provide a new frontage to the Royal Liverpool Hospital development.  We have worked closely with the hospital trust to ensure we could have this scheme and a first-class hospital in the city.”
said Cllr Peter Millea, Executive Member for Assets and Development. 

Currently traffic heading to the city centre from Edge Lane, must turn either left or right into Hall Lane or Towerlands Street at the top of Mount Vernon Green.  Both of these routes are residential roads and traffic is subject to delay. 

The Hall Lane Strategic Gateway, which will cost £20m and is funded by Department for Transport and European funding (ERDF), will relieve this problem. 

Work on the scheme includes new road alignments to take traffic away from the residential areas of Hall Lane and Towerlands Street and will be in dual carriageway for most of its length.

There will be a new junction at West Derby Street/Crown Street directing traffic north along a new stretch of road towards Low Hill and then on to Islington, or south along a realigned Grove Street.

The junction at Low Hill will be improved and this new link will improve traffic flow between Islington and Grove Street.

Pedestrian facilities will be provided at all traffic signal controlled junctions and cycling facilities are also being introduced.  The scheme will include extensive landscaping and improved lighting. 

Work is scheduled to start early in 2009 and be completed in Autumn 2010. 

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