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Media Watch: An irreverent look at some of the biggest health stories in the media

Media Watch: An irreverent look at some of the biggest health stories in the media
By Valeria Fiore Journalist intern
15 June 2018

Make drug prices great again

The day of reckoning will soon be upon us, as US President Donald Trump pledged to make NHS users pay more for their medication.

The president said foreign countries ‘extort unreasonably low prices’ from drug makers, resulting in the American people financing the ‘enormous costs of research and development’.

But how will making UK citizens pay more cause Americans to pay less?

In the US, pharmaceutical companies decide their own prices with little regulation. Typically, health insurers and pharmacy benefit managers secure deals on medicine prices for private insurers and employers.

Trump’s plan will surely serve companies better than the public, as he aims to increase competition and reduce regulatory burdens ‘so drugs can be introduced to the market quicker and cheaper’.

But will it help the people in the US? ‘Just raising the prices across the world isn’t going to help America,’ said former health and human services secretary Tommy Thompson, who added that the move would only increase the amount that people in other parts of the world will pay. Sounds like it’s back to the drawing board for Mr Trump.

Can’t pay? We’ll take it away

No, this is not a new episode of the Channel 5 reality doc, instead this is what many NHS users had to face after a Government initiative last year to clamp down on ‘health tourism’ as part of a two-month pilot scheme across 18 trusts.

People who failed to prove they were UK and EU citizens were deemed not entitled to free care and asked to pay for non-urgent treatment, in a bid to cut the number of foreigners using the NHS for free.

But the British Medical Association expressed concerns over how the pilot would be implemented at a practical level, while former NHS chief executive Sir David Nicholson said the regulations could have resulted in ‘denying healthcare to the most vulnerable in our society’.

The Evening Standard recently found that since the pilot launched last year, only a small number of patients had been found ineligible for free care. Just one in every 180 patients who were asked for ID had to pay for care, according to data from 11 London hospitals.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said ‘ID checking is not a requirement of our charging regulations, but has proven to be helpful in some circumstances’. Hence the decision to trial it across England.

Doctors are now calling on the Government to stop asking NHS admin staff to behave as border force officers and drop plans to implement the scheme at a national level. Another nail in the coffin for the concept of health tourism?

NHS female doctors face gender pay gap

Just two years after the introduction of a junior doctor contract, which the DHSC said would have a ‘disproportionate impact on women’, health and social care secretary Jeremy Hunt announced a review into the gender pay gap in the NHS.

His decision comes after it was revealed that male doctors are paid over £10,000 more than female doctors.

Mr Hunt – who now finds it ‘unacceptable’ that NHS staff still face gender inequality 70 years after the creation of the NHS – has chosen Professor Jane Dacre to lead a gender pay gap review.

Back in 2016 (when the junior doctor contract was introduced), Professor Dacre expressed her concern for ‘the language in the Government’s own equality analysis of the contract, which warns that features of the new contract “impact disproportionately on women”’.

Finally, her concerns have been heard.

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