The Westminster Government has announced that prescription charges will rise for people in England. The cost of prescriptions in England will rise to £7.40 per item from £7.20. This is in stark contrast to Scotland where Scots will pay nothing for prescriptions from April 1st thanks to the SNP Government passing legislation to abolish the charge.
Campaigners in England such as the British Medical Association had hoped the charge would be abolished in England but will be disappointed to instead see an increase.
The NHS in England nets more than £450 million a year from prescription charges.
Last year, the ConDem coalition shelved a report ordered by the previous Government into how charges for patients could be reduced. The study, by Professor Ian Gilmore, former president of the Royal College of Physicians, said the current system of charges was “outdated and arbitrary”.
His conlusions were that all patients with long-term conditions lasting at least six months should be exempt, with the exemption remaining in place for three years.
Patients could then return to their GP to have the exemption period renewed, and ministers should consider scrapping prescription charges altogether for everyone, the report said.
Abolished in Scotland
Having abolished prescriptions in Scotland the SNP Government will now point to how the lives of all Scots can be improved if they demand more powers for their Parliament in Edinburgh.
Abolishing prescriptions charges over the course of their term in Government was a key nationalist manifesto committment. Going into the next election having delivered on this promise Alex Salmond’s team will point to another promise kept as evidence as to why they should be given a second term and continue with the progress.
Since being elected in 2007 the SNP Government lowered charges every year for one-off and regular prescriptions. Over the four years a person with a regular prescription will have saved £180.
The party are keen to impress upon people that they do not wish to see family budgets squeezed because of the UK’s economic crises.
SNP Health Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “On behalf of the 600,000 adults living in families in Scotland with an annual income of less than £16,000 who until now have not been entitled to free prescriptions I completely disagree. When times are tight the last people who should be paying are the sick.”
With the Holyrood elections fast approaching SNP candidates will find that abolishing prescription charges will play well on the doorstep during the campaign. This policy together with the very popular freeze in council tax payments will have party strategists believing that their activists will have a postive story to tell the voters once the campaign is fully under way.