“The case for maintaining prescription charges is in tatters today”

Colin Fox, as a Scottish Socialist Party Member of the Scottish Parliament moved a Bill for the abolition of prescription charges. This opened the debate which led to the SNP government introducing legislation to phase them out by 2011. He is joint national spokesperson of the SSP.


“I presented the Bill to abolish Prescription Charges in Scotland to the Holyrood Parliament in 2003 because I believe they are in effect a tax on the sick. Prescription charges are in my mind an affront to the founders of the NHS who made a profound and noble promise in 1947 to provide the best medical care possible to everyone, regardless of their means or status.


The fact that charges were later introduced as ‘a short term emergency measure’ in 1951, initially by a Labour Government keen to raise money to fight a war in Korea is unfortunate to say the least.


Now there are nearly a million people in Britain who regularly go without the medicines prescribed for them by their doctors because they simply cannot afford the charge of £7 per item.


The case for maintaining prescription charges is in tatters today. They simply cannot be justified on medical grounds, on financial grounds, or on the basis of any logic. When you look at those who are exempt and those who must pay then all sense goes out the window. The richest people in Britain often get their medicines free – like JK Rowling (entitled to free prescriptions as a new mum) or the Queen (entitled as a senior citizen), whilst on the other hand millions of the poorest patients must pay a small fortune for theirs. Some chronically sick patients often have to finds the money for a cocktail of tablets again and again and again.


The Welsh Parliament led the way by abolishing these infamous charges in 2006. The new SNP government up here have accepted my case for abolition and promised to do so by 2011- we will keep them to that promise. So I welcome Swindon TUC’s efforts to ensure that millions of patients in England benefit too.


I pledge to do all I can to help you in your campaign for health justice.”


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