SCRAP Prescription Charges

The weblog of the Scottish Campaign to Remove All Prescription Charges. Keeping you updated on all the news about Colin Fox MSP's bill to the Scottish Parliament.

Monday, October 25, 2004

SCRAP Meetings

The following people were elected as SCRAP office bearers at last weeks Committee meeting;

Chairman - Colin Fox, MSP
Secretary - Jim Milne of the Dundee Anti Poverty Alliance
Treasurer - Dr David Player of the Public Health Forum

The next meeting of the Committee will be on Thursday 25th November at 12.45pm in Scottish Parliament.

posted by Alister at 4:55 pm

Monday, October 18, 2004

New Posters

gone up graphic

SCRAP have produced a set of three posters and postcards as part of our campaign. You can download them from our resources page here.

posted by Alister at 4:13 pm

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Fox to hear how Welsh ditched NHS drug charges

Edinburgh Evening News

SCOTTISH Socialist Colin Fox was today set to visit the Welsh Assembly to hear how it decided to scrap prescription charges.

The Lothians MSP, who is behind a bill to abolish the charges in Scotland, said the Labour-led administration in Cardiff started off intending only to review the list of exemptions. The Scottish Executive announced last month it was carrying out a similar review.

Mr Fox hopes that too could lead to ditching the charges altogether.

He is due to meet Health Minister Jane Hutt, her deputy David Melling and health committee convener John Griffiths.

He said: "The position in Wales was exactly the same as the Executive’s. They were looking to extend the exemptions, but then decided for £10.5 million they could abolish them altogether and create a massive feelgood factor.

"The Welsh Assembly voted this time last year to abolish charges and they have already started phasing them out at £1 a year between now and 2007."

The Executive has begun the first phase of its review, examining how prescription charges work in other countries, which will be followed in four or five months by a wide-ranging consultation on widening the categories of exemption. Mr Fox said the cost of abolishing charges in Scotland would be £46m.

posted by Alister at 2:20 pm

Friday, October 08, 2004

SCRAP Meeting

The Scottish Campaign to Remove All Prescription Charges Committee meets on 20th October at 12.30 in Tower Garden, Room 20 of the Scottish Parliament. Participants include MSP's, union reps, health practitioners, community activists and patients groups. The meeting will consider the progress of the Bill and lay plans for countrywide campaigning.

posted by Alister at 9:37 am

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Welsh visit

I am visiting Cardiff next week to meet Welsh campaigners who successfully persuaded their Assembly to scrap the charges. I hope to meet health minister Jane Hutt who steered the Bill through the Welsh assembly and remains in charge of the policy. - Colin Fox MSP

posted by Alister at 4:50 pm

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Writing on the Wall for Prescription Charges

You know how it goes, you wait ages for a boost and then three come along all at once. This week the Scottish Campaign to Remove All Prescription Charges [SCRAP] was boosted by a series of unconnected announcements across Britain.

On October 1st the Welsh Assembly cut the cost of prescriptions by a £1. This charge in Wales is now £5. In the rest of the UK it is £6.40. This reduction is part of a decision taken last year to abolish charges completely in Wales by 2007.

I immediately demanded that Jack McConnell ‘up his game’ and follow suit. Needless to say he didn’t. Incidentally most MSP’s attitude is to challenge him to ‘Up yours Jack.

The second major development emerged from the Scottish Executive’s annual spending review unveiled at Holyrood this week.

Finance Minister Andy Kerr promised among other things to increase the NHS budget by £660 million. Taken with the £100 million u-turn by Health Minister Malcolm Chisholm over Glasgow’s Queen Mothers Hospital these announcements surely destroy the argument one and for all that we cannot find £40 million to abolish prescription charges. Equally it shows that providing money for one part of the NHS need not automatically come from another.

The trilogy of good news was completed when I received a letter from Malcolm Chisholm where, for the first time, he outlines the timetable and remit of the long awaited review of the charges promised by the Executive in it’s partnership agreement.
The two phase review will, according to Malcolm Chisholm, start with a 5 month long examination of ‘the prescription charging and exemption arrangements in comparable health systems and the effectiveness of different arrangements for publicising prescription charges exemptions’.

Phase two is a 3 month public consultation on the findings beginning in May 2005.

I welcome all these developments as positive contributions to the debate. Campaigners across Scotland should be heartened by these changes. I believe the case for complete abolition of the charges in Scotland is gaining significant support. The writing is on the wall for prescription charges. Numerous studies for example have already shown that charges in Britain are the highest in Europe. And other reports clearly highlight the link between charges and preventing access to medicines.

Meanwhile SCRAP will meet again on October 20th in the parliament to discuss the substantial progress which the Members Bill has made, its parliamentary timetable and plans a series of meetings around Scotland. We intend to take our case out to hospitals and communities everywhere.

If you are interested in joining the campaign contact SCRAP via its website or via Colin Fox’s office in the Scottish Parliament 0131 348 6386.


posted by Alister at 1:11 pm

Monday, October 04, 2004

Wales cuts prescriptions by £1

BBC News

Prescription charges in Wales have fallen by £1 in the first step towards making them completely free by 2007.

From Friday patients will pay £5 for a single prescription, and pre-payment plans for drugs will also be reduced.

Wales is the only part of the UK to promise to scrap the charges, which remain at £6.40 elsewhere.

First Minister Rhodri Morgan ruled out significant numbers of "health tourists" crossing into Wales to take advantage of cheaper prescriptions.

He said he did not think people from outside Wales would not swamp the system.

"All our experience from the under-25s policy is that the number of people who take advantage is minimal," he said.

"We do not want to subsidise the English health system."

Mr Morgan added the rules would be changed to ensure that only people with a GP and a pharmacist in Wales would benefit, before the charges are scrapped in 2007.

Charges for individual prescriptions in Wales have been frozen at £6 and free for the under 25s since 2001 - unlike the rest of the UK.

Health Minister Jane Hutt
Jane Hutt says the assembly's twin track approach on health is working

'Postcode lottery'

At present, there is nothing to stop patients from across the border coming to Wales for their medicines to be dispensed.

The Royal College of GPs' Wales spokesperson Dr Mark Boulter said: "While we welcome any reduction in prescription charges for patients in Wales we are worried this may create a postcode lottery for people living on the border between Wales and England.

"Under the new rules a Welsh patient living in England with a GP in Wales would not benefit from these reductions. We want to see reduced charges for all patients no matter where they live."

Julian Bartram, a pharmacist in Sedbury, Gloucestershire, just on the other side of Offa's Dyke, said he expected the number of paid prescriptions he dealt with "to drop quite dramatically".

"Anybody with any sense would go over onto the Welsh side," he said.

"They [Welsh pharmacists] can dispense English prescriptions as well as Welsh ones."

Secondary legislation could be introduced to tighten that loophole Asthma patient Lynne Haeney, from Swansea, who has been paying £18 a month to treat her condition, supports the cut.

"To reduce it by a pound is a step in the right direction, but it would ideally, and will be in the future, be down to nothing," she said.

"It will make a great difference. Chronic sufferers of asthma, like diabetes and other conditions, should be exempt from prescription charges."

Already, about 50% of people in Wales are exempt from paying for drugs ordered by their GP.

They include the over-60s and people with some long-term medical conditions, like diabetes.

This year, the cost implication of the policy has been calculated at £2.7m.

Welsh Health Minister Jane Hutt said the reduction was designed to help people with chronic diseases like asthma and cancer, who are not exempt, to get back to work and training.

"It's the Welsh way of improving health. It's our funding and our decision," she said.

"We know it's going to be popular... and the rest of the UK is looking to us.

"In fact there is evidence by the Citizens Advice Bureau and the Office of Fair Trading, that many people don't get their prescriptions dispensed because they can't pay the charges, and that can result in people getting ill and needing hospital treatment."

'Deprive patients'

The pharmaceutical industry said the price cut should not lead to patients missing out on medicines.

"It is important that reducing the contributions made by patients to the cost of prescriptions, does not deprive patients of the medicines they need in an effort to keep the overall prescribing budget down," said Dr Richard Greville, director of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry Cymru Wales.

"To reduce the range of treatments available to patients in Wales, or to reduce prescribing which clinicians believe is appropriate and evidence based is not an acceptable alternative."

Plaid Cymru health spokesman Rhodri Glyn Thomas said the assembly government had reneged on a commitment to ensure that people with a chronic lifelong condition would be free of prescription charges.

"Today people would be paying a pound less for their prescriptions, but had Labour kept true to their word, those people suffering from a chronic condition would have been benefiting from no prescription charges for some months."

Plaid wanted charges scrapped and Mr Thomas said he was "happy that Labour has finally followed our policy".

The Liberal Democrats in Wales have criticised the staged cutting of prescription costs, saying the long-term chronically sick needed free prescriptions now.

"Labour promised free prescriptions, but patients are being made to wait for this slow process," said the party's assembly health spokesperson Kirsty Williams.

posted by Alister at 9:12 am