Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Prescription charge is a disease in NHS

Letter printed in Edinburgh Evening News Sat 4th April
YOUR article on prescription charges (Free prescriptions: 'The SNP may have underestimated the cost of its plan', News, April 1) seems not to see the wood for the trees.
I encountered this argument that scrapping charges would lead to an unsustainable increase in demand for medicines many times when I presented my Bill to abolish them to the Scottish Parliament.
For me the conclusion to draw from rising requests for medicines is that there is significant unmet demand from patients who previously could not afford their prescription.
Indeed as the evidence from the Citizens Advice Bureau and the Kings Fund amongst others shows again and again tens of thousands of Scots are in just such a situation, going without the medicines their GP prescribes for them because they cannot afford to pay (the charge is now more than £7 per item in England).
Furthermore, it is worth remembering that since our NHS prides itself on providing universal FREE health care to patients, prescription charges are therefore a perversion, some may say a disease, at the heart of our health care system. Once you start charging people for a service it stands to reason those who cannot afford that charge will go without.
Those who defend prescription charges argue that the sick should pay for their medicines. I would point out that we all pay for our medicines. We all pay for our health services through our taxes and that is as it should be. To charge the sick a second time because they are ill was a view the country rejected out of hand in 1947 and continues to oppose today.
The Governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have all voted to abolish the charges leaving the NHS in England lagging behind. I hope this is soon rectified.

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