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£1.1bn cost of free Scottish prescription ‘value for money’

Despite a rising bill for free prescriptions in Scotland, the NHS is delivering ‘value for money’, Scottish health secretary Alex Neil has claimed.

NHS reimbursement and remuneration figures for prescribing medicines showed that the gross total payments to Scottish dispensing contractors increased by 0.9% from 2012 to 2013.

Alex Neil has argued that the number of items dispensed has risen by 1.9%, outstripping the rise in cost and demonstrating value for money.

He claimed that by abolishing prescription charges in Scotland, the government has restored ‘that healthcare is based on clinical need and not the ability to pay’ – one of the founding principles of the NHS.

The actual cost of prescribing methadone increased by nearly £4m last year with Scottish Conservative health spokesman, Jackson Carlaw MSP, claiming this was ‘worrying’.

£22.4m was spent in the whole of 2013 on methadone fees, which includes supervisory payments to health professionals, according to ISD Scotland figures.

“It shows that far from trying to get people off it, too many are being parked on the drug with no proper plan for permanent recovery,” Carlaw said.

“That doesn’t help the individual concerned, and is ultimately of no benefit to the taxpayer. Today’s figures also show an increase in the number of general prescriptions being given out.”

“By reintroducing a charge that most people were content to contribute, we’d be able to take the strain off hospital wards by investing in 1,000 additional nurses,” added Carlaw.