SNP MP Amy Callaghan has warned that cases of melanoma skin cancer will continue on an “upwards trajectory” if the UK Government fail to remove VAT on sunscreen products.
The MP for East Dunbartonshire, who is a skin cancer survivor herself – has written to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, urging him to make high-factor sunscreen more accessible.
She said cases of melanoma have more than doubled in the last twenty-five years, with 17,000 new cases and 2,300 deaths each year.
Signatories to her letter pointed to research showing 67% of people would use more sunscreen if it was 20% cheaper.
They also rebutted claims by the UK Treasury that sunscreen is already available on prescription for people with certain medical conditions, arguing that provision is “extremely limited” and “does not include melanoma patients”.
It is estimated that the treatment of skin cancer costs the NHS more than £500m a year across the UK, while the cost of removing VAT from sunscreen could be as little as £60m.
Callaghan said: “With every day the UK Government refuses to act, more people are diagnosed with melanoma.
“It is now one of the most lethal cancers for people aged between 15 and 34, and the number of cases are expected to hit almost 20,000 by 2025.
“I know first-hand how devastating it is to receive a melanoma diagnosis, and it’s even more tragic because this horrific disease is almost entirely preventable by staying safe in the sun.
“But we know from polling that most people think sunscreen is too expensive, and they would use it more if it was cheaper.
“That is why everyone who has signed this letter is calling on the UK government to remove VAT from sunscreen, and to launch a public-awareness campaign like Australia’s successful ‘Slip, Slop, Slap’.
“With treasury ministers refusing to even entertain the idea, it’s time for the Prime Minister to step in and do the right thing, make sunscreen exempt from VAT, and ultimately save lives.”
A spokesperson for the Treasury said: “High-factor sunscreen is on the NHS prescription list for certain conditions and is already provided VAT free when dispensed by a pharmacist to these patients.”
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