While millions of patients in England will still be expected to pay for vital medication, prescriptions in Scotland will be available free of charge within four years.
Leave aside the Barnett formula, the fact that it\’s the English taxpayer shelling out for this, and look at the larger picture.
Scottish ministers believe it will cost around £70 million to abolish the charges for Scottish patients – £50 million for loss of income and £20 million to allow for increased take up.
At least they\’ve grasped that drug consumption will rise if it is free.
Unfortunately they haven\’t grasped the very important point that it isn\’t that patients are being asked to pay too much for NHS treatment, it\’s that they\’re being asked to pay too little.
Look, for exampe, at what is considered the finest health care system in the world. (That\’s measured not just by clinical outcome, but by value, equality of service, patient satisfaction, etc.) The French system. There, the national insurance system insists that a) you pay for your treatment and then get a refund. So you see how much such treatment costs. It also insists that b) your refund (except for certain named conditions) is not 100%: more like 70-75%. You, the patient, therefore bear some of the direct costs of your treatment (which most then cover with private insurance).
So, if we were benchmarking, looking to world class practice, we would in fact be raising charges to patients, would we not, not lowering them?