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Scottish patients worse off for axing prescription charges, Leadsom suggests

NHS & health news

Scottish patients worse off for axing prescription charges, Leadsom suggests

Pharmacy minister Andrea Leadsom has said she is “glad” England has not followed Wales and Scotland in making all prescriptions free for patients and suggested that her party’s decision to maintain fees has led to better health outcomes for English patients than if they were scrapped.

Ms Leadsom was responding to points raised by Labour MPs in a House of Commons debate on Monday March 11. Labour MP for Neath Christina Rees, who brought a motion on behalf of colleague Tonia Antoniazzi, said that in an “ideal world” England would “catch up with Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales” and axe charges altogether, putting an end to the “inherently unfair” system of making some conditions exempt from fees but not others.

Ms Leadsom replied: “Health is a devolved matter and the devolved administrations have full discretion in how they spend their budgets, but looking at health in Labour-run Wales or the outcomes for the Scottish National Party-run health service in Scotland, I am glad that this government in England made to right decision to require those who are better off to contribute to vital NHS services in England.

“In 2022-23, those contributions gave about £670m in revenue to England’s NHS – a sum equivalent to the cost of employing about 12,500 full-time nurses and health visitors for a year in 2022-23.

“That income helps our NHS to maintain vital and much needed services for all patients.”

The debate centred on the issue of whether a greater number of long-term health conditions should be added to the prescription charge exemption list, with Ms Rees questioning the Government as to why conditions like MS, endometriosis and depression are not exempt from the £9.65-per-item charge.   

She spoke of a patient in Ms Antoniazzi’s constituency of Gower who is living with MS and who is forced to “try new medications, often knowing full well that they may not work but still having to pay for the pleasure”. 

“The UK Government need to rethink their approach to prescription charges, because their consequences can be dire,” said Ms Rees, warning that some patients skip taking vital medicines due to cost concerns.

In response, Ms Leadsom said there are “no plans” to expand the list of medical conditions that are eligible for an exemption certificate as “it is not right to look at specific conditions in isolation”.

She said the Government is willing to offer alternative support for patients struggling with the rising cost of living, such as the means-tested NHS low income scheme and the energy bills support scheme.  

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NHS & health news