The BMA has repeatedly called for prescription charges to be scrapped in the UK, yet a GP survey has found that 63% are against this abolition for patients. Abolishing prescription charges does seem the ‘fairest and the simplest’ way of escaping a system that the BMA calls ‘detrimental to the health of many patients’.
The idea is appealing – those who cannot afford to pay do not have equal access to health and a promising 58% do think that such charges should be completely removed for those with long term conditions. However, the practicalities of putting such a system in place are unfortunately a different story. How the country can afford to provide free prescriptions is the killer question, and should they deal with wealthier patients? Most of all, having to pay for prescriptions does instill a sense of responsibility in patients for their own health and to be more aware of their medication – meaning they would take more responsibility to take medication and therefore minimise waste.
Prescription charges have been abolished in Wales since 2007 and been scrapped in Northern Ireland last week and cut to £3 in Scotland, where they are planned to be scrapped next year. In England, however, prescriptions currently cost £7.20. Has abolishing charges worked in the rest of the UK? If so, this may be a step in the right direction and England should look towards its neighbours for a transfer of lessons. However, the consequences on responsibilities would be of concern.
Pawandeep K Kahlon
It’s a bit of a political point really: Those of us who believe in free care at the point of delivery must surely support free prescriptions, because anything else is antithetical to the spirit of the NHS.
What are the left-wing counter-arguments if any? Deterring the spurious distribution of drugs perhaps? Or perhaps a lowering of the number of treatments available as decreed by NICE?