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Independents' Day

GP workload warning over free prescriptions

Scottish GPs' have been warned to expect a sharp increase in workload when prescriptions become free within four years, BMA Scotland has warned.

In response to comments made by the Scottish Health Secretary and Deputy First Minister, who promised free medication by 2011, BMA Scotland has called for more research to find ways to prevent patients asking GPs for over-the-counter drugs for free.

Since prescription charges were axed in Wales earlier this year, BMA Scotland claims GPs have seen ‘a change in health seeking behaviour with an increase in demand for prescriptions for medication, such as paracetamol, which is widely available for purchase at low cost over the counter in shops and pharmacies.'

Yet Health Secretary, Nicola Sturgeon said Scottish patients were denying themselves medication because they could not afford the £6.85 prescription price. ‘That is not acceptable and it is not a situa-tion the new Government will tolerate. .

The estimated cost of the change is £70m - £50million for loss of income, and a further £20m earmarked for an increased uptake of medicines once charges are axed.

Dr Chris Robinson, a GP in Fort William said he marched in favour of free prescriptions in the 1970s, but now believed GP workload and medical waste would also increase at no benefit to patients.

He said he had seen ‘astronomical wastage - plastic bags full of hundreds of pounds worth of unused drugs' during house calls to patients already exempt from charges.

Dr Peter Wiggins, a GP in Glasgow, also opposed the blanket change, adding that free prescriptions for chronic, rather than acute, conditions only would have been welcomed.

BMA Scotland called for ‘a full evaluation of the consequences of the abolition of all prescrip-tion charges in Wales earlier this year.' BMA Wales said it currently had no figures.

Free prescriptions

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