Calls to abolish prescription charges

By staff

All prescription charges in England should be abolished, according to a prominent medical association.

In the British Medical Association’s (BMA) submission to the Department of Health’s review on prescription charges, it claimed the current system is “outdated, iniquitous, and detrimental to the health of many patients”.

It also questioned the value of expanding the list of exemptions from charges, given the complexities involved, plus the fact only 11 per cent of prescriptions currently attract a charge.

The figure will drop further with the abolition of charges for cancer patients.

Dr Hamish Meldrum, chairman of council at the BMA, said in a statement: “Free prescriptions for people with long-term conditions is a laudable aim, but it does not go far enough. The system we have at the moment isn’t working, and is unfair on many patients.

“Making the list of exemptions longer will not make it fairer. Ultimately, we could end up with a situation where only a tiny proportion of prescriptions attract a charge, which would be nonsensical.

“Abolishing prescription charges altogether is the fairest and the simplest option.”

The BMA claimed their submission to the DoH review highlights the unfair nature of the current system.

It argued that in some cases prescription charges can act as a disincentive to taking essential medication, and that scrapping them altogether could have benefits to society as a whole as well as for individuals.

For example, the BMA claimed it could reduce hospital admissions, and help people return to work quicker following illness.