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17/09/13 10:44

Prescription charges

Patients with long term conditions benefit from abolition.

Hundreds of thousands of Scots with long term conditions are better off as a result of the abolition of prescription charges.

Latest figures show that since 2007/08, the number of items dispensed for long term conditions such as asthma, crohns disease and diabetes has increased year on year, demonstrating the benefit of removing the barrier of cost.

Since charges were scrapped in 2011, there has been an increase of more than 10,000 items for those with crohns disease and nearly 237,000 items for those with asthma.

It is estimated that around 2 million, 40 per cent of the Scottish population have a long term condition.

In the same week which marks one year to go to the referendum on Scottish independence, the policy is being held up as example of how decisions about Scotland are best taken in Scotland.

Health Secretary Alex Neil said:

“It is my firm belief that healthcare should be free at the point of access for everyone and that is why we scrapped prescription charges for all patients in 2011.

“Where we have the power to take decisions in Scotland, there are clear benefits for the people of Scotland.

“Prescription charges were nothing more than a tax on ill health that Scotland's poorest families could ill afford, and I am proud that in Scotland we took the decision to improve access to prescriptions for all.

“Scotland’s health service continues to lead the way, with take up of free eye examinations growing, and free personal care for all.

"We are also at the forefront of introducing innovative public health measures, such as minimum unit pricing of alcohol and standardised packaging for cigarettes.

“There is also a marked contrast between Scotland’s approach to the NHS, based on its founding principles of being free at the point of care, while privatisation in England is growing ever more pronounced and damaging.

"I have been very clear that the mutual NHS model we have in Scotland is the right model for providing the very best care for patients.”

In contrast, patients in England pay £7.85 per item or £104 for an annual pre-payment certificate.

Rhianna Humphrey, 25, is originally from Ely in Cambridgeshire but is now studying in Glasgow.

She was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in 2005 at the age of 17, and knows the difference the abolition of prescription charges has made.

She said: “As a self-funded postgraduate student in Scotland, who needs medication every day probably for the rest of my life, if I had to pay prescription charges, I would be faced with difficult decisions whether to get my prescription or ensure I could pay my bills and rent, as I did when I lived in England. I felt I had to pay for having a long-term condition and this definitely had a negative impact on me.”

Debi Haddleton, who has inflammatory bowel disease, and lives in England said:

“I need my medications to keep well and in work. I need to pay out constantly and if I did not then my health would suffer considerably. I feel penalised by having to pay for being ill when, if I lived in Scotland, I would not have to worry.”

David Barker, Chief Executive of Crohn’s and Colitis UK, who lead the Prescription Charges Coalition of 29 charities and organisations said:

“People with long-term conditions in Scotland do not face the barrier to effective treatment that those in England still do. As a result of an unfair, outdated and arbitrary system of exemptions, research shows that many with long-term conditions in England are severely compromising their health through being unable to afford prescription charges.

“Since this system was scrapped in Scotland, those with conditions such as asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease and heart conditions, who need medication on an ongoing basis throughout their lives to keep them well, or even alive, no longer have to face impossible decisions between paying for essential medication or feeding their family or covering rent or heating costs.”

Notes to editors

Take up of the free eye examination continues to grow. In the year ending 31 March 2013 there were 1,926,616 free NHS eye examinations in Scotland. This represents a continued improvement in the number carried out since the introduction of the policy in 2006.

The Alcohol (Minimum Pricing) (Scotland) Act 2012 was passed unopposed by Scottish Parliament in May 2012 and has the backing of expert opinion including doctors, nurses and the police. Modelling by Sheffield University estimates that minimum unit pricing will reduce alcohol consumption and alcohol-related harm across the whole population, but particularly targeting those that drink the most.

Unlike the UK Government, the Scottish Government is pressing ahead with plans to introduce standardised packaging. The evidence is clear, plain packaging is an effective way to prevent the uptake of smoking among young people which is key to achieving our vision. A consultation on the next steps will take place in the new year, with plans to introduce legislation in 2014-15.