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Thursday, 5 March 2009

All prescriptions charges in England should be scrapped, doctors argue.

Make all prescriptions free in England, doctors argue
article in the Telegraph


"The British Medical Association is calling for all prescriptions in England to be free and the National Pharmacy Association, and a host of patient charities are also in support.

Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland have already abolished charges or are planning to.

A review of medical diagnoses which are exempt from charges is being carried out and chairman Prof Ian Gilmore, president of the Royal College of Physicians, is due to report in the summer.

Currently only 11 per cent of people in England pay the £7.10 charge for a doctor's prescription and this will drop further from April 1st as cancer patients receiving treatment will each be exempt from fees for five years.

Gordon Brown has said exemptions will be extended to all people with long-term conditions, to be determined by the review, but doctors say this will leave only a tiny minority paying the fee which is 'nonsensical'.

The NHS earns around £450m a year from prescription charges out of a budget of around £100bn a year and this would be substantially reduced if all 15m people with long-term conditions were removed from charges, the BMA said.

Research has estimated that around 750,000 patients on low income, but who do not qualify for as exempt from charges, fail to have their medicines dispensed because of the cost."

To make all prescriptions free in England would certainly make the system simpler, and would undoubtedly be fairer, especially for people with long-term conditions, so I suppose I should support this idea. What troubles me about it is that it will, inevitably, lead to more people being prescribed drugs and to more people taking them, and it is my firm and sincere belief that prescribed drugs on the whole do far, far, far more harm (mostly unrecognised and certainly unacknowledged) than good.

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