The revelation in a Sunday newspaper that Labour is planning to re-introduce prescription charges for everyone except children and pensioners shows that the party has lost all touch with the principles of the NHS, the SNP has said.
According to the Mail on Sunday, as part of Johann Lamont’s Cuts Commission, a plan has been put forward to bring back prescription charges – which were abolished by the SNP – for the majority of adults in Scotland.
Other measures under consideration include an outright ban on prescribing painkillers – despite their role in preventing heart attacks – and raising the eligibility age for the concessionary bus pass.
The removal of prescription charges has benefitted people with chronic conditions including asthma, crohn’s disease, motor neurone disease and cancer sufferers requiring non-cancer related medication.
The Labour proposals comes despite Welsh Labour leader Carwyn Jones promising to stand on a platform of free prescriptions in the 2016 Welsh Assembly election and front bench MSP Kezia Dugdale previously making clear her view that “free prescription charges would need to stay”.
Speaking on the BBC in 2012, Ms Dugdale said that ending free prescriptions was not something she would support.
“… it might cost more to means test them than it would to give everybody them for free, so we need to look at the numbers […]I think that probably free prescription charges would need to stay.” The Labour MSP said.
The Prescription Charges Coalition in England which supports people with chronic conditions found in a survey this year that 37% of people had reported that the cost of their medication had prevented them from taking it as prescribed.
The organisation represents around 30 charities who support people with chronic conditions. A previous survey by the same group found that 73% of their respondents pay for their prescriptions – which currently cost £8.05 for a single prescription in England.
In 2013 they surveyed over 3,700 people with long-term conditions on the impact of prescription charges, their 2013 report highlighted that:
- 73% of the respondents pay for their prescriptions.
- 35% of respondents who pay for each prescription had not collected at least one item due to cost, with 75% of this group reporting that their health got worse as a result.
- 10% of those who said they had missed a prescription due to cost said that they ended up in hospital as a direct consequence of not taking their medication.
In 2014 the Prescription Charges Coalition conducted a new survey focusing on employment issues. Last week they reported the finding of this survey of 5,1590 people with long-term conditions and it showed that:
- 37% reported that the cost of their medication had prevented them from taking it as prescribed;
- 74% of those who said that they were not taking their medication as prescribed because of the cost reported that this had affected their ability to work; for 70% of these, this had included time taken off work.
Commenting, SNP MSP Bob Doris said:
“The revelation that Labour is planning to re-introduce prescription charges, punishing those who have the misfortune to become ill will rightly make people across Scotland furious.
“It seems that Labour has long since lost touch with the founding principles of the NHS – that healthcare should be freely available when a patient needs it.
“The removal of prescription charges has made a huge difference to the lives of people with chronic conditions.
“While Labour seems determined to follow in Westminster’s footsteps by undermining and eroding the principles of the NHS, the SNP will always stand up for and protect Scotland’s health service.
“The SNP has been determined to protect our NHS from Westminster’s privatisation agenda and we are equally determined to oppose the re-introduction of prescription charges and the tax on ill-health that they represent.
“This is just the first blow delivered by Labour’s Cuts Commission – people across Scotland will be wondering anxiously what they have planned next.”