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ERG and AOP stress concern over prescription changes

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Action on Poverty and Equality Rights Group have highlighted concerns from the community over the change to prescriptions, which will see medication of low clinical value no longer on offer.

In a joint statement the groups said they have been inundated with calls regarding the change, and they have contacted the Government to express their concern.

“As AOP, we have been calling on Government for several years now to put those who are most economically vulnerable on the front line of concerns,” the statement said.

“This cuts across issues of social equality and discrimination as well, and for this reason, we have married two previously independent projects into one. ERG and AOP will henceforth be working as one.”

“People are alarmed and concerned. And by that we mean low-income pensioners and benefits-dependent individuals in particular.”

They added structural measures and changes that adequately support those least able are required.

“Building that into this new proposed prescriptions policy is a prime example of making structure work in favour of those who most require support,” the groups said.

“While it may seem reasonable to require a person in full employment or on a comfortable level of income to pay for over-the-counter medications which, though not life-threatening, may still be advisable to contain a medical condition, the picture is completely different when it comes to those in low income brackets, or living on slim pensions.”

“They may just about be coping today, but we should be avoiding measures which can push them or their family over the edge.”

The ERG and AOP added it has previouslt warned of the dangers of increasingly negative economic circumstances for a number of years now, which, they said has only worsened.

“There is nothing in the economic forecasts whether in Gibraltar or farther afield, to suggest the situation will do anything other than continue to worsen,” they said.

“Today, the price of energy and the rising cost of an average basket of food (milk, vegetables, fruit, oil are just a few among many key items currently affected) have been rising sharply. Inflationary pressures resulting from interrupted supply/demand cycles (Brexit, the Covid-19 pandemic and, lately, the war in Ukraine), on top of the inevitable reduction in the buying power of the pound in everyone’s pocket mean that we face tough times ahead.”

“What does an elderly person on a low pension do? How do dependent individuals on low benefits cope? Paying for small items maybe small change for some, but it adds up for them very quickly. Call it hardship, or call it poverty, it ends up being the same thing: no Government can look the other way. We have to do better.”

The ERG and AOP has written to the Chief Minister asking for a more nuanced policy to protect the vulnerable.
They added the vulnerable can’t be expected to pay for any health care items.

“We can’t treat everyone the same because not everyone in this community falls into the same category,” the groups said.

“We need some differentiation.”

“We are therefore hopeful that Mr. Picardo will consider introducing adjusting measures that will allow low-income vulnerable individuals to be given exemption from the over-the-counter cost of all prescriptions under the proposed new policy.”

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