The Scottish government has renewed its commitment to free prescriptions.
Prescription fees in England will rise 15p to £8.20 in April, and Scottish health secretary Shona Robinson said this meant Scottish patients who needed at least 10 prescriptions a year would save £82 compared to those in England.
“It remains our firm belief that healthcare should be free at the point of need – the founding principle of the NHS. Free prescriptions are consistent with our ambitions for a just society, and we remain committed to this policy,” Ms Robison said today (March 23).
Prescription charges were abolished in Scotland in 2011, which meant patients with long-term conditions did not face an "on-going financial penalty just because they are unwell”, Ms Robison said.
Patients with conditions such as coeliac disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cystic fibrosis and asthma might not qualify for free prescriptions if charges were reintroduced, she stressed.
Prescribers were “continuing to prescribe as cost-effectively as possible” to ensure that the benefits of free prescriptions were felt by “people who truly need them”, Ms Robison said.
“Free prescriptions in Scotland mean that no one is forced to decide which medicine they can afford and which they will have to go without,” she added.
Ms Robison’s statement comes a month after the Northern Irish government revealed it was considering reintroducing prescription charges to pay for specialist drugs.
Last year, the Scottish government hailed a reduced rate of dispensing volume growth as proof that it was right to scrap prescription fees.
C+D is hosting a webinar this evening on the prescription charges system and the government's plans for pharmacists to electronically check exemptions. To register your interest, visit http://bit.ly/PharmacistsFraudPolicemen.