Abolishing prescription charges

Maybe it\’s a good idea and maybe not.

The British Medical Association is calling for all prescriptions in England to be free and the National Pharmacy Association, and a host of patient charities are also in support.

But one question. What is it that has changed since last time we did it?

Although the NHS, which was founded in 1948, was meant to provide a completely free health service for everyone, a growing drugs bill prompted the introduction of prescription charges in 1952.

The plans were first put forward by the Attlee government in 1951, causing the resignation of a string of ministers, including the "father" of the NHS Aneurin Bevan and the future Prime Minister Harold Wilson. Following Labour\’s election defeat, in October 1952, the Conservative government set the charge at one shilling per prescription form.

By 1956, the NHS was dispensing 228 million items per year at a cost of £58 million, and the Government raised the charge to one shilling per item to compensate. Three years later, this went up again, to two shillings per item.

In 1965, under Harold Wilson, Labour abolished prescription charges. This caused the NHS drugs bill to soar, as many low-cost items that patients had previously bought for themselves were increasingly prescribed.

Anyone?

7 comments on “Abolishing prescription charges

  1. The NHS makes a profit on common prescriptions. I’m an asthmatic and the online price of my drugs is a third of the prescription charge – another hidden tax.

  2. I assume buying them yourself in the UK is illegal.

    I assume you assume that because you’re an idiot. Private prescriptions are 100% legal in the UK.

  3. @john b

    You are a gifted debater. I must remember the “idiot” debating technique.

    Anyway, private prescriptions are 100% legal in the UK but you have to pay a private doctor to issue one – which rather defeats the purpose.

  4. Private prescriptions are not illegal, of course, but they can be expensive in their own right (your doctor will charge extra for them). However, there is no reason to pay more than £104 in toto per year for prescriptions. A pre-payment certificate covers the cost of all prescription charges incurred by an individual during a year. If you have more than 15 standard prescriptions per year, this is cheaper. In my case, the pre-payment certificate is less than 1/4 the cost of individual prescriptions. Of course, I’m subsidised by occasional users (who enjoy, one presumes, better health). There are also slightly bizarre exceptions – my wife is on supplementary Thyroxin, and therefore entitled to free prescriptions across the board – I don’t know what the rationale for that is.

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