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Doctors back abolition of prescription charges

By Gareth Iacobucci

Doctors at the BMA's annual representatives meetings have overwhelmingly backed calls for prescription charges to be abolished in England.

Delegates at the conference in Liverpool backed a motion calling for England to follow the lead of the other three devolved nations by scrapping charges for prescriptions.

BMA chair Dr Hamish Meldrum, chairing the debate, urged delegates to accept the motion, on the grounds that prescription charges had become ‘an unfair tax on illness'.

The motion was passed despite opposition from Dr Hal Maxwell, a GP in Ballantrae, Ayrshire, who warned that GPs would see an increase in patients asking for free prescriptions for common over-the-counter medicines like paracetamol and aspirin.

Dr Maxwell also warned that the move risked making prescriptions seem ‘of little value' with ‘a risk of poor compliance and increased waste'.

Although he acknowledged the concerns, Dr Meldrum said the current system was ‘non-sensical' adding that costs could be offset by allowing pharmacists to prescribe things like aspirin free to needy groups.

‘This is about educating our patients as to what cost is. But prescription charges have become an unfair tax on illness,' he said.

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