Abolish NHS prescription charges! say GPs

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THE NHS prescription charge is ‘iniquitous’ and ‘outdated’ and should be scrapped, urge GPs in the Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin (DTB), edited by Dr John Cook.

‘The GPs state: ‘Prescription charges are clearly outdated and iniquitous, and we believe it is time that politicians showed their commitment to a patient-centred NHS and abolish prescription charges in England.

‘England is the only part of the UK where patients still pay for medicines. Last month the price for a single prescribed item went up to £8.05. In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland prescriptions are free.’

Now the leading medical journal has asked why patients in England are subject to this additional ‘tax’ on medicines.

The Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin calls the charge ‘outdated’. It says that the latest available figures, for 2012, show that 90 per cent of all medicines dispensed outside hospital attracted no fee, as most went to patients aged 60 and over.

Yet 80 per cent of patients aged 18 to 59 had to pay for their drugs.

The editorial, written by Dr James Cave, editor of the DTB and a practising GP in Newbury, Berkshire, adds: ‘There are many exemptions from the prescription charge, including age, pregnancy and some specific chronic conditions.’

However:

• Prescriptions will rise by 40p to cost £8.25 by 2015, and dental fees will also go up.

• Regional differences in prescription charges are outrageous.

Cave states: ‘Many such exemptions appear illogical and unfair, adding to our belief that the prescription charge is a poorly conceived, manifestly unfair tax.’

The charge also bears little relation to the cost of many commonly prescribed drugs, the journal argues.

For example, 28 aspirin (75 mg) cost 74p while the statin drug atorvastatin (20mg) costs £1.26.

There is also the cost of administering the system.

Dr Andrew Green of the British Medical Association said: ‘We believe the best solution is for prescription charges to be abolished in England.’