Prescription charges are a 'tax on the sick', says GPC

Prescription costs are turning doctors into 'tax collectors', a senior GP has said, as campaign groups call for medical exemptions to include all long-term conditions.

Prescriptions: fees make doctors 'tax collectors'
Prescriptions: fees make doctors 'tax collectors'

GPC clinical and prescribing subcommittee chairman Dr Andrew Green told GP: ‘There is simply no rhyme nor reason to the exemption system, the origins of which are lost in the dark ages.’

‘All GPs will be aware of patients who have not completed treatment courses due to difficulties with payment, and the scheme turns dispensing doctors and pharmacists into tax collectors.’

Two-thirds of GPs believe that prescriptions should be free to all people with long-term conditions, a survey from the BMJ’s Drug & Therapeutics Bulletin found. One GP suggested that ‘all chronic disease patients should be exempt, with periodic reviews of the exemption in case of resolution.’

Abolishing costs

148 GPs were polled, and the vast majority (91%) of GPs thought that NHS prescription charges deterred patients from collecting prescriptions. But three-quarters of those surveyed felt that completely scrapping prescription charges would increase demand for prescriptions.

‘Although we recognise that there have been concerns raised about a possible impact on consultations for minor illness, we do believe that the only logical way forward is be to remove this tax on the sick, and fund the NHS from general taxation,’ Dr Green said.

‘Any future change should be in this direction, rather than piecemeal additions to the list of excluded conditions based on whichever group can exert the greatest tug on politicians’ heartstrings.’

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