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BMA calls to abolish prescription charges

The British Medical Association has said that if prescriptions charges on the NHS are not abolished it will lead to an arbitrary system of 'winners and losers'.

According to the British Medical Association, prescription charges should be abolished and England should follow the example of Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland where everyone can get prescriptions for free.

It warned that making patients pay for a prescription acts as a disincentive to them taking medications necessary for their health.

The Government is currently reviewing its payments system and is looking to add to the list of conditions currently exempt from payment.

At present, exempt conditions include people with type 1 diabetes, hypoparathyroidism, a permanent fistula like a colostomy which requires surgical dressing, and epilepsy that require continuous medication.

People aged 60 or over, under-16s, those aged 16 to 18 in full-time education, people on benefits and pregnant women are also exempt, and from next month cancer patients will also get free prescriptions, even for medication not related to their disease.

However, the BMA has called for all remaining charges to be axed, saying that the current system is 'outdated, iniquitous, and detrimental to the health of many patients'.


Readers' comments (5)

  • I wholeheartedly agree. Why is there such discrimination against those of us living in England? I have a kidney disease and have to take blood pressure medication for the rest of my life. I also need to take statins for raised cholesterol and antidepressants. Why should I have to pay when diabetics and those with thyroid disorders dont? There are many kidney patients who have to pay for their drugs which is a blatant inequality in health care. I believe a government spokesperson said this morning that 'the majority of people in England are exempt" well I am not sure where those figures come from. If that is the case then it shouldnt make too much difference to the government coffers to make the rest of us exempt. Perhaps they should look at appropriate prescribing and medication reviews as done by some chemists to prevent waste of perfectly good drugs. And whilst on the subject of NHS payments -ABOLISH PARKING CHARGES FOR HOSPTIALS its an out and out disgrace making profit out of suffering.

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  • I agree in principle that prescriptions should be free. However, I am concerned about people having medication and not taking it and wasting money. This happens already, some people have stockpiles of out of date medication. In my personal experience these people didn't pay for this medication, either due to age, condition or benefit status. I imagine that people who pay for prescriptions are less likely to stock pile medication, or to just collect medication from a pharmacy on repeat even if they don't really need it.

    Equally, I don't like the idea of a system where someone will not take necessary medication because they can't afford it, but you would probably expect most people in this category to be on a benefit of some description. If someone decides to not get a prescription because of cost, but could afford it, that is then a personal choice.

    There isn't a simple answer here. I think consideration needs to be given to how repeat prescriptions are obtained and other ways of reducing medication wastage, hand in hand or prior to deciding on a carte blanche free prescription.

    I would like nothing better than to get my asthma medication free but I know I get it considerably cheaper than actual cost price.

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  • I do not agree with free prescriptions for everyone at this time as the cost of the drugs has to be covered. However, I think they are priced far too high and should be per prescription not per item, this could be limited to a maximum number of items per script. This would help those on multiple medication. Or if it is to remain priced per item then the cost should come right down so it is subsidised, £7.20 is unreasonable. I agree with the other person that highlighted wastage by people not finishing courses of medication and storing drugs in their homes. A system needs to be adopted to encourage more people to return unwanted drugs for disposal. Even in hospital there is a wicked waste where in hospital pharmacy will not accept outside prescribed drugs so even in date drugs in blister packs and sealed are being wasted. The whole scenario needs reviewing before free prescriptions are introduced. I agree that treatment should be available equally to all so if someone cannot afford prescriptions there should be help available. Perhaps rather than long term exclusion from fees for financial reasons a short term exclusion could be introduced so that regular reviews could take place to monitor changes in circumstances. We already offer more than other countries. Free prescriptions would be great but where would the money come from?

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  • I couldn't agree with Kim more. In England we do discriminate against certain conditions as far as prescription charges are concerned. And as for car park charges, I saw whilst at the hospital I work at a fixed penalty notice being handed out to a contractors van that wasn't parked dangerously or causing an obstruction but was parked right next to where the work was being carried out! A bit like booking an ambulance whilst parked at the scene of an accident! Pure legalised robbery!

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  • I am on the fence about this discussion.
    i think if all prescriptions were free, then people would be getting prescriptinons and not taking them properly, like they would if they had to part with their money.
    but then i think it is so expensive to be ill. i am a student nurse, and like most students, really poor! and can't always afford to buy my inhalers, so would love to see free prescriptions, but makes you wonder how they will fund this, and where they will be taking money from...will other services be worse off?

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