Concerns that abolishing prescription charges in Scotland will lead to more people visiting their GP are unfounded, the health secretary has said.
Nicola Sturgeon made the claim as she unveiled plans to abolish prescription fees by 2011.
But before that happens, there will be a sliding decrease in costs over the next three years.
A prescription currently costs £6.85, but will drop to £5 in April, £4 in April 2009, and £3 in April 2010.
However, Labour MSP Des McNulty said that while Scotland’s 129 MSPs will all gain from the move, there will be no winners among those on low incomes who are already exempt.
He also suggested that money to pay for the plans will have to come from health board cash that would otherwise be spent in deprived areas.
But Ms Sturgeon retorted: “The logic of that argument is that wealthy people should pay for GP appointments, or their own hospital treatment.”
She added that even if more people do visit their GP, it will indicate that more patients are no longer put off because of the cost.
Phasing out the charges over the next three years will cost £20m, £32m, and £45m respectively, and the annual cost of scrapping them entirely will total some £57m from 2011 onwards.
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