18 September 2013

Stevenson Points to New Evidence on Prescription Charges Abolition

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has pointed to new figures released this week which show hundreds of thousands of people in Scotland 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.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson said:

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

“These figures, along with the evidence from patients themselves, show that people with long-term conditions such as asthma, Crohns Disease or diabetes are benefitting greatly from the Scottish Government’s decision to abolish prescription charges.

“Indeed, the increase in uptake by some 10,000 items over the period by Crohns Disease sufferers alone should make those parties who opposed the change stop and think about all those people who were effectively denying themselves medical treatment prior to abolition simply because they could not afford the prescription charges."

Scottish 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.

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.”

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