Why it’s right for us to pay for our pills
THE SNP’s flagship policy of free prescriptions for all has always been fatally flawed because, as anyone who has ever had to balance a family budget knows only too well, nothing is truly free.
In fact, ‘free’ prescriptions came at a cost of £1.3 billion to the National Health Service in Scotland last year. And every penny spent providing paracetamol and pile cream to the well-off is a penny that cannot be spent paying for state-ofthe-art drugs for those most desperately in need of medication for serious complaints.
Despite the SNP spin around this policy, the truth was that before the abolition of prescription charges for all, the poorest faced no costs. The system as it used to be was designed to protect the vulnerable. The SNP’s system is designed to appeal to the better off.
It was perhaps inevitable that the policy of free prescriptions for all would be difficult to sustain. An ageing population has already placed mounting pressure on NHS budgets. This being so, channelling money to those who simply do not need it seems doubly reckless.
Now one Scottish health board has decided to restrict the prescription of certain easily obtainable medicines for the least serious complaints.
NHS Borders has decreed that some medicines of ‘low clinical value’ should be the first to go. Patients attending their GP in the Borders and complaining of minor ailments can expect to be advised to visit their local community pharmacy to buy the medication they require.
This seems an eminently sensible approach to tackling the implications of a costly and poorly thought out policy.
Nobody who needs medication should be denied it but the case for sustaining free prescriptions for all grows weaker.
The Scottish NHS is already struggling under severe financial pressure. It’s time for the Scottish Government to accept that it may be necessary to abolish its free prescriptions policy and divert funds to where they are most needed – on the front line.