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, July 29, 2005

Health chiefs back scrapping prescription charges

Edinburgh Evening News

Health chiefs in Lothian have thrown their weight behind moves to ditch prescription charges.

NHS Lothian has written to the Scottish Parliament's health committee saying it supports the Bill being promoted by Scottish Socialist leader and Lothians MSP Colin Fox to abolish the �6.40 charge.

It argued the current system was unfair and the criteria for exemptions - which gives diabetics free prescriptions while people with chronic bronchitis or heart disease have to pay - was illogical.

And Dr Philip Rutledge, NHS Lothian consultant in medicine management, said the Scottish Executive's preferred approach of reviewing the list of exemptions was not satisfactory because medical advances meant the situation was constantly changing.

Mr Fox's Bill would make all prescriptions in Scotland free of charge, as the Welsh Assembly has already voted to do.

DrRutledge said: "One of the strongest arguments for abolishing prescription charges is fairness.

"The existing criteria for exemptions is well out of date. It was last altered in 1968 and since then there have been quite a few changes in medicines, in disease recognition and in treatment that make the exemptions list quite illogical."

And he said it would be easier and fairer to scrap the charges altogether rather than altering the list of exemptions. He said: "The argument against just revising the exemptions is they would have to revise it very frequently.

"The way things are moving in medicine, there are new treatments coming up all the time that change disease management quite quickly."

Dr Rutledge said there was evidence to support the view that prescription charges led to people going without the medicines they needed and their health subsequently deteriorating.

Health boards receive the income from prescription charges to help offset their growing drugs bill and might therefore be seen as having a vested interest in the charges being maintained.

But Mr Fox said other health boards had also indicated their support for his Bill.

NHS Lothian receives around �6.8 million a year from prescription charges, which is used towards its �125m drugs bill.

And its submission to the committee said ways should be explored to offset the loss of revenue to health boards.

Mr Fox today welcomed NHS Lothian's support.

He said: "This is one of the biggest health authorities in the country saying on the basis of their day-to-day frontline experience prescription charges should be abolished.

"It is an important additional piece of support which gives even more momentum for the Bill."

posted by Alister at 12:18 pm