Sickle Cell Patients Should Have Medical Exemption in the UK

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by Tito Oye |

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World Sickle Cell Awareness Day

In the U.K., the National Health Service maintains a medical exemption list with conditions that entitle patients to free prescriptions.

This is a wonderful concept that relieves some of the financial pressures of healthcare costs that many people might otherwise face. Without this vital service, people would be in a position to compromise their healthcare due to financial difficulties.

The list includes a few, but not all, long-term conditions such as cancer, diabetes, and epilepsy. Unfortunately, sickle cell disease doesn’t qualify for an exemption.

I was inspired to write about this because every couple of years, someone starts a petition to get sickle cell anemia added to the list. When I first encountered a petition like this, I was ecstatic, filled with hope, and convinced that once we got enough signatures, we’d be met with a positive response.

It seemed like a no-brainer to me. If a government official would research the long-term effects of sickle cell disease and the long-term care it requires, they would see that subsidizing the cost of our medication is the least they could do.

Unfortunately, the government’s response to that petition was a firm no. 

The Department of Health and Social Care provided reasons for finding it unnecessary to include sickle cell on the list. Among them, officials said they were unable to support the request because the country currently is in a financial crisis. Alternatives are established, officials said, to help people from low-income backgrounds access the medication they need. 

This was not the response I expected. After researching the alternatives that were suggested, I realized that they were not as easy to obtain as one might assume.

Since signing that first petition, I have come across at least three others just like it. Some were met with the same response, while others didn’t collect enough signatures to warrant a response. However, another petition currently is in circulation, and unlike the previous ones, this one has greater momentum.

I am reluctant yet hopeful about it. I hope that this time around, our request will be viewed with compassion and sympathy. The more I see people share a link to the petition and talk about sickle cell, the more my optimism increases.

Although I have been let down before, there is no harm in signing the petition again. I hope that this time, something positive will come from it, because it would do so much good in the lives of those of us with sickle cell.

Does sickle cell disease qualify for any medical exemptions in your country? Please share in the comments below. 


Note: Sickle Cell Anemia News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Sickle Cell Anemia News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to sickle cell anemia.


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