Tuesday 15 October 2019 / 10:30 PM Health / Jeremy Corbyn

Corbyn promises huge step towards “truly universal” health service

Corbyn promises huge step towards “truly universal” health service by scrapping prescription charges, taking on big pharma and delivering free personal care, so that our healthcare system puts public health ahead of private wealth

Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn is today promising that the next Labour government will put “public health ahead of private wealth” and make a huge step towards a “truly universal” health service by abolishing prescription charges in England, ensuring that vital drugs are available at prices that the National Health Service can afford and introducing free personal care to support older people so they can live independently with dignity in their own homes.

Visiting a pharmacy in the key marginal seat of Watford, the Labour Leader will set out Labour’s plans to scrap prescription charges in England as part of the party’s plans to expand universalism in public services and tackle health inequalities.

After the Queen’s Speech failed to set out any legislation on social care, provided no details of any proposals and did not set a time limit for any reforms, the Labour Leader will also set out Labour’s plans to more than double the number of people receiving state-funded care and reduce the number of people facing catastrophic costs in old age for their care. Labour will:

  • Introduce free personal care for older people, providing help with daily tasks such as getting in and out of bed, bathing and washing, and preparing meals in their own homes and residential care;
  • Address the funding gap in social care;

Labour also promise to take on the big pharmaceutical companies which deny life-saving and life-changing medicines to ill patients by charging “extortionate prices” for drugs. Labour will:

  • Be prepared to use compulsory licensing when necessary to secure patented medicines at a price that is affordable for the NHS;
  • Make public funding for research conditional on the resulting drugs being priced affordably for all;
  • Create a new publicly-owned generic drugs manufacturer to supply cheaper medicines to the NHS


Speaking ahead of the visit, Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn said:

“Healthcare is a human right. Nobody should be worried about being able to afford the medicines they need, and our NHS should not be priced out of providing the drugs people need because of pharmaceutical companies charging extortionate prices for medicines.

“The right to healthcare extends to the right to dignity and security in old age. Under the Tories, our social care sector is in a scandalous state, with one million people not getting the care they need. Labour will right this wrong and introduce personal care free at the point of use, extending state-funded care to hundreds of thousands more people.

“The next Labour government will make a huge step towards ensuring that our health service is truly universal by scrapping prescription charges, and taking on the big pharmaceutical companies so our healthcare system puts public health ahead of private wealth.

“Labour will make sure that when the public pay for research the public benefit, and we will create a new publicly-owned generic drugs manufacturer to supply cheaper medicines to our NHS – saving money and lives.”



Notes to Editors

Watford stands to gain enormously from Labour’s transformative plan to rebuild Britain:

Scrapping Universal Credit will spare more than 9,600 people in Watford the stress and misery of the Tories’ inhuman and disastrous flagship welfare policy.

An estimated 19,800 people in Watford will benefit from free personal care under the next Labour government.

At least 1,300 families in Watford can look forward to their annual electricity bills falling by £117 thanks to Labour’s radical plans to fit more than 25,000 square meters of solar panels on Watford’s rooftops.

And four of Watford’s 16 post offices will become part of Labour’s Post Bank network, which will provide face-to-face banking for all and help save Britain’s high streets.


Free personal care

Introduce free personal care for older people

Fund social care properly

  • Labour’s fully-costed 2017 manifesto committed an additional £8 billion of social care funding over five years, covered by tax increases that protected 95 per cent of earners
  • Labour will lay out our total additional social care spending pledges ahead of the General Election in our new fully-costed manifesto. Funding for Labour’s National Care Service will be through general taxation rather than any form of levy.

Labour’s National Care Service

  • Labour’s 2017 manifesto set out our plan to deliver a National Care Service.
  • Since then, Labour has also committed to move people with autism and learning disabilities back into the community from inappropriate inpatient hospitals.
  • We have also committed to deliver 160,000 additional care packages to ensure more people receive the care they need.
  • Labour will improve support for unpaid carers through an increase in carers allowance in line with Job Seekers’ Allowance and will publish a proper National Carers Strategy.

Free prescriptions

  • 87 per cent of asthma patients skipped their medication because of the prescription cost

Source: Survey of Health Professionals, Nursing Times, September 2019

  • The estimated England annual cost would be £745m.
    • £576 million is recovered from prescription charges annually, representing the amount of revenues lost after the abolition of charges. (DHSC accounts)
    • £170m is a generous estimate of increased take up of medicines after the abolition of charges, which may initially increase the overall bill by 1.6%, The estimate is based on the most recent observed experience of prescription charge (in Scotland, from 2011). The experience in Wales (from 2007) was stable rates of take up, broadly in line with trends.
    • £1m is a low-end estimate of savings that could be made from ending the schemes associated with administering prescription charges.


A generic drug is a medication created to be the same as an existing approved brand-name drug. Generic medicines work the same as brand-name medicines but, because they are produced outside of patents, they are cheaper.