Exclusive: GPs oppose abolition of scrip charges

Almost two-thirds of GPs are against the abolition of prescription charges for all patients, a GP newspaper survey has found.

BMA leaders have repeatedly called for prescription charges to be abolished across the UK.

But a survey of 1,266 GPs for GP newspaper found that 63% of GPs do not support such a change. Just 32% do, while 4% remain unsure about the issue.

GPs suggested that providing free prescriptions to all patients would be unaffordable.

Many argued that well-off patients should not qualify for free prescriptions, even if they had long-term conditions.

‘Patients should bear part of the cost of any medication or treatment, so they understand that these things are not free,' one said.

Prescription charges were abolished in Northern Ireland last week and cut to £3 in Scotland, where they will be scrapped next year.

Charges were abolished in Wales in 2007. But in England they remain at £7.20.

The BMA believes that abolishing prescription charges is the ‘fairest and the simplest' of way overhauling a system which is ‘outdated, iniquitous, and detrimental to the health of many patients'. The GPC re-stated its support for the removal of charges in its annual report last month.

The majority of GPs do, however, support the removal of prescription charges for patients with long-term conditions, with 58% supporting such a move.

Gordon Brown announced in 2008 that he would scrap charges for patients with long-term conditions. But the government's review on the issue has never been published.

GPs are split on whether prescription charges prevent people accessing health care.

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