Press Release

Are free prescriptions in Scotland being abused?

The Scottish Conservatives have compiled a dossier of evidence they claim shows the free prescription service in Scotland is being abused.

The allegations cover attempts by patients to persuade GPs to prescribe items such as plasters, sunscreen and toothpaste.  It also claims that pharmacists have been advising patients on how to get items for free on the NHS rather than buying them over the counter. It is alleged that this is leading to massive increases in the medicines bill for the NHS in Scotland.

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society in Scotland has been active in commenting on this story, both in explaining the cause of rising costs of medicines and reassuring the public about the good practice of pharmacists.

The story, with our comment, broke on Sunday 8th July in the Sunday Times and was picked up by the Mail, the Express and the Sun the following day.

Aileen Bryson, our Practice and Policy Lead in Scotland, was on BBC Radio Scotland on 9th July.  On the show she explained that the increasing number of items dispensed in pharmacies was mainly caused by our ageing population, increased emphasis in preventative medicine and the increase of long-term conditions. 

“No system is perfect but the current policy does address the old problem of patients not being able to afford medicine.  Many pharmacists recollect times when patients came to them with multiple prescriptions and asked them for advice about which ones were most important as they couldn’t afford all of them.

“The numbers from ISD, the body in Scotland that collects data on NHS performance, suggests that the increase in the cost and volume of items dispensed this year is in line with all other years from 2001.

“Public information campaigns on the appropriate use of the Minor Ailment Service and training for GPs and pharmacists to deal with inappropriate requests for prescribing would be helpful.”