Help for chronically ill as SNP confirm prescription charges to end


Prescription charges are to be abolished for all Scots, Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed.

Speaking at the SNP’s annual conference in Perth Ms Sturgeon announced her party’s intention to remove the charges completely from April next year.

Free prescriptions for Scots was a commitment given by the SNP when they came to office in 2007.  The charges have steadily reduced over a three year period since and the final reduction will see them scrapped altogether next April.

The removal of the charges will be a welcome relief in particular to the many Scots who have long term health issues.  Scots with long term conditions who buy annual pre-payment certificates (PPCs) have saved a total of £180 each since the reduction in costs was introduced.

Nicola Sturgeon said:

“I can confirm today that in April next year, as promised, prescription charges will be abolished.

“In these tough economic times we simply cannot afford to allow cost to be a barrier to those who need prescription medication.

“Healthcare should be free at the point of access for everyone – this is the founding principle of the NHS. This policy has proved to be a success year after year by helping even more patients, particularly those with long term conditions and who require the greatest number of prescription items.

“There are around 600,000 adults living in families in Scotland with an annual income of less than £16,000 who are not entitled to free prescriptions. The prescription charge is a tax on ill health that Scotland’s poorest families can ill afford.

“Some have argued that in this financial climate, we should not go ahead with our plan to abolish prescription charges. Well, times are tight and we believe that the last people who should be paying the price of the current economic mess are the sick.”

The phasing out of charges is following the planned approach shown below:

Year Single Item 4-month PPC 12-month PPC
2007 £6.85 £35.85 £98.70
2008-09 £5.00 £17.00 £48.00
2009-10 £4.00 £13.00 £38.00
2010-11 £3.00 £10.00 £28.00
2011-12 Zero Zero Zero

Patients who buy annual PPCs will have saved £50, £60 and £70 respectively, each year since the policy was introduced. That represents a total of £180 over the three years.

In the last financial year there were 408,000 PPC sales. This is an increase from 169,000 PPC sales in 2007-08.

NHS Efficiency
The Health Secretary has also made clear the SNPs intention to tackle the NHS top heavy management structure and called on Scottish health boards to reduce senior management numbers by 25 per cent over the next four years in order to introduce greater efficiencies across the health service.

Ms Sturgeon said:

“There is no doubt that the health service, like the rest of the public sector, faces serious financial challenges in the coming years. The greatest challenge for the health service is to protect the quality of patient care while making sure that key frontline services are delivered as efficiently and as cost-effectively as possible.

“I can announce today that, over the lifetime of the next parliament, health boards will be expected to cut the number of senior managers by 25 per cent – not because we don’t value the work that they do, but when budgets are tight we must invest every penny we possibly can in frontline services.”

Ms Sturgeon claimed that the move was possible due to advances in technology and medical developments and would free up an additional £100 million that would be used in order to fund frontline services.

The Health Secretary added:

“When we add this saving to the other non-clinical efficiency savings that health boards will make, it will release more than £100 million a year to be spent on vital frontline services.

“This is a challenging target, but I am giving boards ample time to make the necessary changes and I am confident that they can cut costs without compromising the highest quality patient care.

“We have already seen excellent examples of health boards taking advantage of service redesign, advances in technology and medical developments to deliver a more efficient service. I now look to the health boards to continue this process to meet the management reduction target and reinvest the efficiency savings in frontline services that protect the fundamental values and the founding principles of our NHS.

“I recognise the importance of good management in the smooth running of the NHS in Scotland but I believe, in these difficult financial times, we need a leaner senior management structure.”