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£10 for a prescription? You're having a laugh?

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Will Westminster ever abolish prescription charges in England?No, it’s not Hallo’ween anymore. You did rightly hear that a centre-right political think-tank has proposed the idea of the prescription charge in England to increase to £10. 

Reform believes the idea will help generate much needed revenue for the National Health Service and, although certain groups of patients would be exempted from paying the charge, those who still have to pay for their medicine would have to dig deeper into their pockets.

Last year, I recall questioning and examining the whole policy of free prescriptions for everyone in Scotland. But, with hindsight, the real reason I did this was partly down to the frustration that I was encountering within myself whilst I was struggling to get myself onto the employment ladder (see I can get emotional! Take a look at the link below for that blog on my website last year). Staffing posts are being cut so therefore why shouldn’t there be a simple idea being implemented in order to raise extra revenue to fund for more staff?

But hindsight is an incredible thing. In 2012, the total net cost to England for prescriptions was £8.5 billion, which was down on the previous year. But there are many factors at play which could see this figure drop in the future. Polypharmacy is growing, patents for certain medicines are expiring and the economic cost for a variety of medicines are plummeting. With that hindsight and taking in all those factors which are currently relevant, why should prescription charges even exist, let alone increase?

There are other ways to address the financial pressures being put on the NHS and all of us who work within it should play a key role in suggesting ideas for spending efficiency to be increased. Businesses in the private sector are rightly shrewd when it comes to expenditure and the NHS, everywhere, should continuously challenge itself to become more and more efficient in spending. After all, taxpayers pay for the service so they should expect value for money.

The idea of having free prescriptions for everyone is not necessarily some sort of a political promise to please everyone. All of us who pay taxes have paid for the National Health Service. The idea of having to pay a “top-up fee” to just get access to medicines prescribed by an appropriate practitioner is an unforgivable obscenity.

There is more to life than money and health is just not one of those issues which can afford to become a personal economic commodity. The whole idea of free prescriptions to all citizens is to ensure that people get access to essential support to protect their health and well-being, regardless of who they are, how much money they have and what their life circumstances are. 

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society is absolutely correct to reject this poorly thought out proposal from Reform.

Neal Patel from RPS summed it up brilliantly in his analysis: 

“Increasing prescription charges would be a false economy and runs counter to initiatives to improve the health of people with long-term conditions and reduce health inequalities. Higher charges would place additional pressure on the NHS, including GPs and A&E, as people become ill and seek help because they aren’t able to afford all their medicines.”

If I could give any sincere advice to my colleagues south of the border, it would be to convince the politicians at Westminster to finally put to an end to this divisive and unnecessary policy and create a level playing field so that every citizen in England can be reassured that they will get equal and fair access to their medicine through the appropriate channels within the NHS.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have implemented the policy of free prescriptions and never looked back. England’s time to follow them is now. 

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My blog entry when I reviewed the policy of free prescriptions in Scotland, “Are free prescriptions really affordable in Scotland?”: http://officialanashassan.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/are-free-prescriptions-really.html

Health and Social Care Information Centre article, “More than 1 billion prescription items dispensed in a year - or 1,900 a minute”: http://www.hscic.gov.uk/article/3199/More-than-1-billion-prescription-items-dispensed-in-a-year—-or-1900-a-minute

From BBC News, “Raise prescription charges to £10, think tank urges”: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-24985242

From the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, “RPS rejects think-tank proposal to increase prescription charges”: http://www.rpharms.com/pressreleases/pr_show.asp?id=1002 

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