England is the only country in the UK still paying for prescriptions as Scotland joins Wales and Northern Ireland in abolishing the charges
As the cost of prescription drugs goes up by 20p, doctors and charities complain that English patients are effectively subsidizing free drugs for those living elsewhere in the UK who continue to pick up medicines for free.
‘The Governmentshould not be increasing prescription charges,’ says chairman of the British Medical Association Council, Dr Hamish Meldrum. ‘It should be following the lead set by the three other nations in the UK and making plans to abolish them.’
Elderly patients in Scotland are entitled to aweekly allowance to help with healthcare and free eye tests, while those in England are forced to pay to ensure the NHS does not accumulate £450million debts a year.
‘Patients with disabling long-term conditions still have to pay them despite a recent report recommended they be phased out,’ continues Dr Meldrum. ‘Most importantly, the principle of charging for prescriptionsruns counter to the founding principle of the NHS that is free at the point of use.’
The Department of Health says 90 per cent of prescription items are free with schoolchildren, pensioners and the unemployedexemptfrom charges.
But what do you think? Are the charges a disincentive to visit the doctor? Should England follow the rest of the UK in abolishing fees? Do you struggle with prescription charges? Share your thoughts by posting a comment below.