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Last Updated: Monday, 22 October 2007, 10:24 GMT 11:24 UK
Vow to scrap prescription charges
Prescription
Patients in Scotland pay 6.85 for prescriptions
Charges for prescriptions are to be abolished within four years, Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon has pledged.

The deputy first minister said some people were being forced to go without vital medication because they could not afford to pay.

She said this was "not acceptable" and vowed to change the law within the lifetime of the parliament.

Ms Sturgeon also said she supported a system of opt-out rather than opt-in consent for organ donations.

In January last year, MSPs voted to keep prescription charges, following a highly-charged debate at Holyrood.

A motion to abolish the charge was proposed by the Scottish Socialists and supported by the SNP and the Greens, but it was defeated by 77 votes to 44.

I can confirm that prescription charges will be abolished - completely - in the lifetime of this parliament
Nicola Sturgeon
Health Secretary

Patients in Scotland who pay are currently charged 6.85 for prescriptions.

On Monday, Ms Sturgeon insisted that many people with Parkinson's disease and other life-limiting conditions go without their prescribed medicines "because they can't afford the prescription charges".

She added: "That is not acceptable and it is not a situation the new government will tolerate.

"That is why I can confirm that prescription charges will be abolished - completely - in the lifetime of this parliament.

"Abolishing prescription charges will help tackle inequalities. As more of us live with long-term chronic conditions, increasingly it is the case that prescription charges are a tax on ill-health.

"One of the consequences of people living older is that more of us will live with long-term chronic conditions and more of us will experience the effects of old age."

'Need for change'

The SNP promised in its election manifesto to immediately scrap charges for people with chronic conditions or in full time education.

Charges for the rest of the population were to be abolished by 2012, but Monday's confirmation would bring that timetable forward.

Ms Sturgeon also said she welcomed the public consultation due shortly by the organ donation task force, but said she was aware that many people want to move to an opt-out, rather then an opt-in system of consent.

She added: "Under an opt-out system it would be presumed that people are willing to donate their organs unless they have expressed a contrary wish during their lives.

"I am increasingly sympathetic to that point of view. Since I have been in this job I have become more aware of the need for change."

Ms Sturgeon will set out her views in detail in a lecture to delegates at this weekend's SNP conference.

SEE ALSO
MSPs retain prescription charges
25 Jan 06 |  Scotland
MSPs support free prescriptions
11 Jan 06 |  Scotland
Call to scrap prescription charge
21 Jun 05 |  Scotland
Prescription charge plea by MSP
08 Apr 04 |  Scotland
Prescription charge to rise 10p
12 Feb 04 |  Health

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