The Prescription Charges Coalition brings together over 40 organisations calling on the Government to extend exemption from prescription charges to all those with long-term conditions in England
"I have to put my family first before I can afford my 3 lots of medication a month. I have 3 young children to feed"
In recent years, there has been a broad political consensus that the current system is unfair, as some long-term conditions qualify people for free prescriptions whilst others don’t. This sense of unfairness has been exacerbated since the introduction of free prescriptions for people living in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
In May 2009, the then Government commissioned an independent review of prescription charges by Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, former President of the Royal College of Physicians. He recommended that all those with long-term conditions should be exempt from prescription charges and outlined how this policy could be introduced. However, later that year it was announced that this would not go ahead.
In October 2010, the incoming Coalition Government confirmed that it would not introduce free prescriptions for people with long-term conditions at this stage, but would ‘explore options for creating a fairer system of prescription charges and exemptions’. The current Government states that "there are no plans to change the existing list of medical conditions which provide eligibility to exemption from the prescription charge."
Over the last decade, research by the Prescription Charges Coalition, Citizens Advice, Asthma UK, Rethink Mental Illness and Parkinson's UK, among others, has demonstrated time and time again the impact of prescription charges on people with long term conditions. Our research, surveying thousands of people with long-term conditions, demonstrates that prescription charges are a major barrier to people taking their medicines effectively, leading them to severely compromise their health. This results in poorer quality of life, worse health outcomes, additional treatment, unplanned hospital admissions, decreased productivity and increased reliance on benefits. The medical exemption criteria, set in 1968 and largely unchanged since, are out-of-date and arbitrary. As the criteria will be 50 years old in June 2018, we believe reform is now long overdue.
The Prescription Charges Coalition is co-chaired by Parkinson's UK, Crohn's and Colitis UK and National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society.