All prescriptions are free in Wales. Scotland and Northern Ireland will abolish prescription charges soon. And from April 1st this year Cancer patients, people under 19 and over 60 and those suffering from a list of illnesses (which probably seemed sensible in 1968) don’t have to pay for their prescriptions in England.
However, there is plenty of evidence that many poor people do not take medication, or sometimes do not even take medical advice, because of cost. I posted on my blog last month that I believe the time has come to abolish prescription charges in England and today’s announcement by the BMA is to be welcomed.
The principle that healthcare should be free at the point of delivery is a very sound one, and Governments repeatedly pledge their support to it. But for many poor people these pledges are not reflected in their experience. If we cannot do that straight away maybe we could enlarge the list of benefits which entitle the recipient to free prescriptions to include Incapacity Benefit and Disability Living Allowance? At present anyone whose weekly income is more than £3.65 above the Income Support poverty line has to pay the full cost. For single people under 25 – £51.60; 25 or over – £64.15. That means that many people on Incapacity Benefit long-term basic rate – £84.50 – have to pay in full.
It’s time to make healthcare – and that means prescriptions, too – free at the point of use.
What do others think?