Now that Scotland has joined Northern Ireland and Wales in abolishing prescription fees England is the only part of the UK to charge for them. As of today, no one in Scotland will have to pay for prescribed medicines following the move which was brought in by the SNP government. Prescription charges have been falling in Scotland for the last three years and stood at £3 before the 1st April change, which will mean the Scottish government losing out on £57m a year in income.
In reality creating Universal benefits may well prove to be a one way process, as unravelling the decision afterwards may prove more expensive than any revenues that would be raised by any prescription charges raised. At the end of the day it comes down to a matter of choice, private prescriptions have certainly not ceased to exist, only prescribed medicines are universally free.
There is a degree of irony here, in that this move in Scotland comes on the same day that charges per item rise in England by 20p to £7.40. However, despite the charge, 90% of items dispensed are given out free as children, those on low incomes and cancer patients are exempt.Under devolution, Wales was the first part of the UK to make prescriptions free back in 2007 and Northern Ireland followed in 2010.