MS sufferer’s appeal over prescription charges

Paul and Elain Donnell
Paul and Elain Donnell

A MS sufferer from Banbridge is appealling to the Health Minister Simon Hamilton to keep prescription drugs free.

Paul Donnell (39), a father of two and an MS sufferer for the past eight years is supporting the campaign against the reintroduction of prescription charges for those living with long term conditions.

Mr Donnell said prescription charges for those with long term illnesses would be ‘unfair.’

“Punishing people with illnesses and disabilities is wrong and will end up costing more in the long run as people go out of work, get sicker and end up in hospital,” he said. “I used to work 40 plus hours per week as foreman in a garage. But as my MS has developed I’ve had to reduce my hours to part time and I work from home.

“I’d love to be working full time but physically I can’t manage it anymore. Our family income has halved in the last few years.”

He continued, “We can just about manage the mortgage and household costs so if a prescription charge was introduced it would take a massive chunk out of our income, taking away the little financial security we have.

“Charging people for medications they need to keep going is unfair and will cause more problems in the long run. Without my medications, my pain would be unbearable and the fatigue would leave me unable to function. I wouldn’t be able to get out of the house and that would be the end of my life, in my opinion.”

Mr Donnell also said, “I also have Lupus and Raynaud’s disease and I take up to 12 medications per day. I dread to think about how much my medications would cost if prescription charges were introduced.

Health Minister Jim Wells has proposed the reintroduction of prescription charges earlier this year to pay for a new specialist drugs fund in Northern Ireland.

The specialist drugs fund would pay for drugs that are either too expensive or too specific to be licensed for use at the moment.

However, The Keep Us Well campaign is calling on the Health Minister to end the uncertainty and commit to no return to prescription charges for the one in three people and their families here living with one or more long term conditions.

More than 50 charities in Northern Ireland are supporting the campaign who claim that by paying for treatment will place an unfair burden on the sick. and disabled

In February this year the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety launched a consultation.

Director of MS Society in Northern Ireland, Patricia Gordon said: “Medication is not a luxury for people living with a long term conditions such as MS. It is as vital a part of their treatment as seeing a specialist or receiving physiotherapy. Introducing prescription charges in Northern Ireland would be a backward step and would add further worry to many people already facing cuts to disability benefits.”

Head of BHF NI Jayne Murry said: “Not only do prescription charges place an unfair burden on people living with long term conditions, but their introduction is a false economy.”

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