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.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Lib Dems backing free prescriptions

The Herald

FREE prescriptions should be a Liberal Democrat condition of the next coalition talks, according to the party's health spokesman, piling further pressure on fraught relations between the Scottish Executive parties.
Mike Rumbles has backed an idea being pursued by the Scottish Socialist Party, with a bill that three Liberal Democrat MSPs have signed up to.
That makes it likely that the £45m annual bill for such a policy will be a demand made by LibDems if there is to be another coalition negotiation between them and Labour after the 2007 election.
Both Jack McConnell, the first minister, and Andy Kerr, the Labour health minister, last week rubbished the SSP proposal as unaffordable.
However Mike Rumbles, LibDem health spokesman, argues that the idea is "eminently sensible and perfectly affordable from his party's perspective".
But he said the party is not going to vote for the SSP bill because it is not part of the partnership agreement made after the 2003 election.
That coalition deal means that there will be a review of prescription charges for full-time students and for the range of chronic conditions for which prescriptions are free – which was last reviewed in 1968 and covers only a few illnesses.
"As with free personal care for the elderly, health provision should be free at the point of need," said Mr Rumbles. "I shall certainly be pushing for this to be in the 2007 manifesto. The Labour party wants targeted benefits, but we believe that you should have health benefits freely available to all."
Mike Pringle, the LibDem Edinburgh South MSP, one of those who has signed the SSP bill, said he could not vote for it because of the coalition commitment, but that he would push for it to be in the next partnership agreement.
He added: "You shouldn't be charging people for drugs anyway. We're not talking about a huge amount of money, so let's just make it simple and save people the hassle and administration cost." An estimated 50% of Scots are liable for prescription charges, though only one in 10 prescriptions is paid for.
The call will raise pressure between Labour and their coalition partners in the election run-up, with both parties eager to project distinctive messages to voters.
LibDems, who claim credit for forcing Labour to introduce free personal care for the elderly in Scotland, this week threatened to vote down a ministerial attempt to let Westminster legislate for new trespass laws.

posted by Alister at 2:15 pm

Friday, January 21, 2005

MSP says half the cost of axing pills charge would be recouped

Evening News

£20m savings claim in free prescriptions fight

MSP says half the cost of axing pills charge would be recouped


NEARLY half the cost of scrapping prescription charges in Scotland could be recouped through savings elsewhere in the health service, it was claimed today.

Scottish Socialist Party MSP Colin Fox said the estimated £45 million that would be lost through introducing free prescriptions would be offset by up to £20m of savings, mostly as a result of fewer people needing hospital treatment.

The Lothians list MSP was today formally unveiling his Bill to abolish prescription charges, following the example of the Welsh Assembly, which voted to scrap the charges last year.

Mr Fox said: "Prescription charges are a lie to the promise the health service gave in the 1940s that it would provide universal healthcare free at the point of need.

"It’s not free and 75,000 people in Scotland have gone without the medicines they needed because they did not have the £6.40 per item for the prescription."

Mr Fox branded the current charges a tax on the sick. But he said an analysis of the financial impact of abolishing the charges, carried out by parliament officials, had shown large savings could be made through lifting the cash barrier to people getting medicine.

The revenue raised from prescription charges in Scotland last year was £45m. Exemption schemes cost over £1.5m to administer and more than £250,000 was spent on anti-fraud advertising, costs which would not be incurred if the charge was scrapped. But the biggest savings would come from the reduction in people needing hospital treatment as a result of not getting the right medicine.

Mr Fox said: "The civil servants believe that if 75,000 don’t get prescriptions because they can’t afford them, a significant proportion will see their condition deteriorate and many will find themselves having to go to other NHS facilities.

"They reckon there are £20m of savings to other NHS facilities in granting free prescriptions." The calculation was based on the numbers of patients not taking up prescriptions, the percentage who might then require hospital treatment and the costs of hospital admissions.

The average cost of treating an acute in-patient is put at £1875 a week, rising to £7500 a week for patients having heart surgery.

Mr Fox said: "The financial argument in favour of abolition is increasingly robust. It now appears clear there are considerable savings to be made. I believe the Executive’s argument it would lead to cuts elsewhere to be nonsense.

"Even £40m is only four per cent of the NHS’s annual drug bill in Scotland. And the income from prescription charges is less than half of one per cent of NHS income."

The Bill to scrap prescription charges will go to the parliament’s health committee next week to start taking evidence on its proposals.

And Mr Fox said he was "more than hopeful" that he could get the legislation through parliament, despite the Executive’s opposition.

He said 22 MSPs had already signed up in support of the Bill. The SNP was said to be concerned about the financial implications of abolition, but Mr Fox hopes today’s figures will help persuade them to support the move.

Opponents of Mr Fox’s Bill argue many of the people who can’t afford to pay prescription charges are already exempt under various categories.

The Scottish Executive says it is conducting a review of prescription charges for people in full-time education and those with chronic conditions.

It expects to consult on changes to the system in the spring.

posted by Alister at 11:35 am

MSP wants all Scots to get free NHS drugs

Evening Times

A BID to abolish NHS prescription charges was launched today at Holyrood.
Socialist MSP Colin Fox has tabled legislation he claims would benefit 75,000 Scots who are not exempt from charges.
They include sufferers of chronic illnesses such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and HIV/Aids.

Mr Fox said the £6.40 prescription charge was a "tax on the sick" and contradicted the original NHS principle of providing free health care at the point of use.
He said: "It is not free at the point of need because if you don't have £6.40 you don't get the treatment.

"That's what's happening to 75,000 Scots every year who don't have the cash and are going without the treatment they need."
Mr Fox said people not exempt from paying for prescriptions included 27,000 receiving benefits allowance and workers on the minimum wage.
He claimed research in the UK, Europe and Canada had consistently shown that charges resulted in patients not taking the treatment they needed because of the cost.

Figures from 2001/2 show prescription charges raised £43million of a total NHS prescription drug bill of £733m.
But Mr Fox argued that the cost of abolishing the charges in lost revenue to the NHS would be much less than £43m a year.

He claimed the NHS would save £20m a year in treatment costs for people who don't take up prescriptions because of the £6.40 charges and end up in hospital.
Mr Fox admitted these savings would be offset by the additional cost of such people taking up free prescriptions, but he insisted that overall it would be less than the bill for hospital stays.

He also said there would be savings of £3m in administration.

His Abolition of Prescription Charges (Scotland) Bill has the backing of 22 MSPs, including Labour's Elaine Smith, and he is urging more Labour MSPs to follow the example of their colleagues in the Welsh Assembly, who have already voted to phase out the charges.

A spokeswoman for the Multiple Sclerosis Society Scotland said: "We would be delighted if prescription charges for people with chronic conditions were abolished."

posted by Alister at 11:32 am

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Tony Benn Backs Campaign

Tony Benn has sent a message to Colin Fox MSP offering his full support for the campaign to Scrap Prescription Charges.

Dear Colin
Full support for your campaign,
When I took my seat in parliament 54 years ago this month there were no
prescription charges and they were imposed because of a re-armament
In unity

posted by Alister at 6:30 pm