Letter published in today's Herald newspaper
As the MSP who introduced the Bill to abolish NHS prescription charges to the Scottish Parliament in 2005 I am not in the least surprised by the 26% increase in the use of pre-payment certificates reported in yesterday's Herald.[Cut price prescription drugs policy 'a success' - 28th January]. Cutting the cost of certificates by 50% was always likely to highlight the extent to which the price was an inhibitor to treatment. However the figures also make clear that there are many tens of thousands of patients in Scotland who are still going without the medicines their doctors have repeatedly prescribed for them because they cannot afford to pay. And this is set to continue for the next 2 years.I certainly hope the SNP administration keeps its promise to abolish the charges completely by 2011 but I would remind readers that patients in Wales no longer suffer this 'tax on the sick' as it was abolished there in 2006. Furthermore the Northen Ireland Assembly has also voted to get rid of the charges and will do so before the Scottish Government does. Finally, I must take issue with the Herald editorial on the matter [No easy prescription] which rather misses the point when it says 'if people who can afford to pay do so then ...many millions of pounds can be re-invested in the NHS'. Surely the point is that it is patients who cannot afford to pay who are being penalised here whereas our utterly illogical and irredeemable exemptions system actually protects those who perhaps could pay more.Notwithstanding that I remain firmly opposed to the charges and have always felt that only abolition safeguards that 'cherished principle' referred to in the editorial, namely, treatment free to everyone at the point of need. That puts me firmly in the camp which believes that our NHS should be paid for out of general taxes and not by doubly taxing the sick.
Yours sincerely Colin Fox National Spokesman Scottish Socialist Party