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Abolish prescription charges demands BMA

By Steve Nowottny

All prescriptions charges in England should be abolished, following the example of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the BMA said today.

The current system is ‘outdated, iniquitous and detrimental to the health of many patients,' the association warned.

In its submission to the Department of Health's review of the list of long-term conditions that are exempt from prescription charges, the BMA claims that a fundamental overhaul of the whole system is required to avoid creating ‘a new set of arbitrary winners and losers'.

The submission warns that prescription charges can act as a disincentive to taking essential medication, and highlights parts of the current system the BMA argues is unfair. Patients with asthma and heart disease, for instance, may require medication over a prolonged period but must still pay prescription charges.

Patients on low incomes but just above the exemption threshold are also unfairly penalised, it argues.

BMA chair Dr Hamish Meldrum said: ‘Free prescriptions for people with long-term conditions is a laudable aim, but it does not go far enough. The system we have at the moment isn't working, and is unfair on many patients.'

‘Making the list of exemptions longer will not make it fairer. Ultimately, we could end up with a situation where only a tiny proportion of prescriptions attract a charge, which would be nonsensical.'

‘Abolishing prescription charges altogether is the fairest and the simplest option.'

The BMA has called for all prescription charges to be dropped The BMA has called for all prescription charges to be dropped

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