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ERG/AOP Calls On Government To Review New Prescriptions Policy

ERG/AOP have issued a statement after receiving complaints from the elderly and vulnerable following the "removal of a large number of pain relief medications from its prescriptions policy".

A statement from AOP/ERG follows below:

A good number of elderly and vulnerable people have been coming to us over the past months following government’s removal of a large number of pain relief medications from its prescriptions policy,’ Lyana Armstrong-Emery, Poverty Coordinator for Equality Rights Group (ERG)/Action on Poverty (AOP) said today.

‘The one size fits all new prescriptions policy is exceptional in its lack of nuance and caring, and leads us to seriously question the quality of advice being made available to the Chief Minister.

‘Not everyone is affected; but those that are, in particular the elderly and vulnerable, feel it especially badly when pain relief for their knee or arthritic back and other chronic ailments is suddenly and automatically removed. Or when gels and lotions that have formed an integral part of their doctor’s prescription and which have successfully kept them able to enjoy a modicum of independence has been suddenly and mercilessly taken away.

‘This sledgehammer-to-crack-a-nut attitude is being justified by government as a move to do away with abuse of the system. But our elderly are not abusers. And blanket labelling those on low incomes and in hardship is shameful.

‘Behind the move, of course, Government has said it is aiming to save £4.3 million by cutting back on the range of medications available to citizens. The other argument government uses (without producing the evidence) is that Gibraltar, supposedly, is ‘over medicalised’. But this does not and cannot apply to people in their late years suffering with chronic pain of one sort or another and necessarily having to rely on pain relief to make life tolerable.

‘ERG/AOP takes issue with this unprofessional and badly thought out generalised cutback approach applied to those who are least well-off; and precisely because it most acutely affects those most likely to be in health difficulties and confronting quality of life obstacles.

‘Can older and vulnerable people, therefore, no longer rely on being cared for in their need? ERG/AOP calls on government to review its policy to make it more nuanced. It is morally unacceptable to turn the elderly and the income-challenged into victims of bad political judgement.

‘ERG/AOP raised our concerns directly with the Chief Minister on 30th June at a face-to-face meeting and followed this up with a report that was requested on that occasion. No response was forthcoming three and a half months later from Mr. Picardo. We reminded him in writing of the lack of response on 11th October and this time received a reply that he would be responding the next day, Wednesday 12th October. Unfortunately, Wednesdays have come and Wednesdays have gone and still the appetite to deal with a matter that affects our elderly and vulnerable appears to merit no redress.

‘We have written to the Chief Minister yet again to once more insist that the issue be revisited and dealt with at no further delay.

‘Let us say that we have no issue with financial control as a necessary tool of any Administration. We have always seen good financial housekeeping as reasonable. However, willy-nilly removing quality-of-life pain relief medication from those who need it the most is unacceptable administrative arrogance.

‘For this reason, and given the fact that the sectors of our society most hurt by these measures are precisely those with least access to communication, ERG/AOP has already started a campaign of leaflet distribution informing the public, in both English and Spanish, about the situation in some detail.

‘We will not let this pass in silence.

‘Distribution has already taken place to letter boxes in Varyl-Begg, Glacis, Laguna, and Moorish Castle estates. And we are set to extend the campaign to wider areas of Gibraltar, with meetings around the community to alert and spread awareness of what is happening.

‘One theme that is often repeated when speaking to individuals is that they are shocked, having contributed throughout their working lives to social insurance and tax, that at the point of greatest vulnerability in their lives, when they most need to rely on quality health care, they should find themselves left high and dry,’ the statement ended.