Education and universal charging for prescriptions will save our NHS

NHS sign

The Conservative Party have pledged to increase NHS funding by £8 billion over the next five years. Whilst this is absolutely necessary in order to retain the standards of care we see now, the NHS is increasingly resembling a sieve. It’s not necessarily how much money is being put in that is the concern, it’s how quickly it is draining out. With NHS net planned expenditure at £113.035 billion for 2014/15, I believe it’s time we started to look at areas we can save money without compromising patient care.

It has been suggested that there should be a penalty system put in place for people who fail to turn up to medical appointments. Whilst there are genuine reasons patients sometimes can’t attend, we cannot ignore the fact a large percentage of absence is due people forgetting. According to NHS Money, on average there are 6 million missed appointments per year which is costing the service an unnecessary £700 million. Not only is this a total waste of taxpayers money, it also leads to poor patient care levels due to longer waiting times.

Recently, the NHS has placed emphasis on how important your pharmacist can be when looking for advice. The aim of this is to reduce doctors appointments for minor ailments, that could be resolved with over the counter medication and in turn free up more appointments. The Care at the Chemist scheme has been successful in allowing non-paying patients access to certain medications without seeing a doctor. Exempt from paying patients include two of the biggest NHS users, the elderly and children under 16. I would argue that this scheme has worked well due to education, exposure and the targeted advertisement it was given.

Education can play a big part in increasing efficiency. A problem lots of GP’s are reporting is a misuse of the system due to a lack of understanding of how it works. An example of this can be seen by the repeat prescription service. If a patient is put on long term medication, they will be given a repeat form to allow them to order their prescriptions without having to make an appointment with the doctor. An increased number of unnecessary appointments are being made just for repeat medications. If patients were better informed, the NHS could be saving money and time, purely through the means of education. If a new scheme such as Care at the Chemist can be given such broad advertisement, a long standing, but misused system should also be given such broadcast.

This week it was announced that prescription medication will have the amount of money it has cost taxpayers written on the packet if it is over £20. This is in an effort to reduce the amount of returned and wasted medication. Reasons patients choose to return their medication include things such as the brand it is, or their dislike for the packet it comes in. Largely medication returns are avoidable, and result in further draining of taxpayers money as they cannot be reused. People often see the NHS as being free, however if patients were made aware of how much money their medication has actually cost the NHS and taxpayer, they may not be so quick to complain.

I believe it’s time to change prescriptions charges. The amount of non- paying patients is increasing, and for those few that do pay for their prescriptions, the price per item is also ever increasing. I believe that if everyone paid a small amount per item on their prescription, this would be a much fairer system, and would further reduce NHS wasted spending. The free prescription service is abused by many, and the burden is wrongly put upon those who are deemed able to afford their medicines.

I would argue that through education, and greater compassion for the service, we could see huge savings. It’s certainly not about sacrificing patient care, it’s about getting it right when it comes to spending. Without a strong economy, we simply cannot have a strong NHS. The UK economy is growing, and that combined with meticulous spending, will result in a more sustainable NHS.

 Follow Georgia Pactor on Twitter


Comments are closed.