On 10th June, representatives from the Prescription Charges Coalition met Dr Mark Timoney, the Chief Pharmaceutical Officer in Northern Ireland and members of the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety health team.
We expressed our concerns about the potential impact on people with long-term conditions of proposals to reintroduce prescription charges in Northern Ireland and shared the findings of our survey of 850 local people with long-term conditions.
We were assured that there would be a further consultation on detailed proposals before any further move was taken to bring prescription charges back in Northern Ireland. We will keep a close eye on developments and ensure these are communicated widely when we hear more.
The Prescription Charges Coalition has submitted a response to the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety consultation, strongly calling for prescription charges not to be reintroduced for people with long-term condition in Northern Ireland.
You can read our response below.
Your chance to have your say about whether prescription charges should be reintroduced in Northern Ireland
A public consultation is underway in Northern Ireland which focuses on access to unapproved specialist medicines. A key part of this is a proposal to reintroduce prescription charges.
The deadline for responding to the consultation is 8 May.
See the posts below for further details, including our views and how to respond to the consultation, together with some ideas for aspects you might want to think about. Question 5 of the consultation questionnaire addresses prescription charges specifically.
We are very concerned that there has been no assessment of the impact these proposals may have on health outcomes and feel that the question is very leading. Please do take this opportunity to have your say and do let us know your views by contacting us through this site or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
You also have two more opportunities to attend public meeting in Antrim and Belfast (see below), where you can find out more about what is being planned and contribute your views.
If you live in Northern Ireland, and want to have your say on the proposed reintroduction of prescription charges, you can go to one of the following public meetings:
It is our strongly held view that people with long-term conditions in Northern Ireland would be disadvantaged by the reintroduction of prescription charges and some may be unable to afford their medicines, potentially leading to poor health, increased hospital admissions and lower productivity.
We do not think it is right to consider prescription charges in the context of access to new specialist medicines, as is being done in Northern Ireland. Governments can choose how to raise revenue and support the availability of specialist medicines. The Prescription Charges Coalition do not believe it is appropriate, reasonable or fair to do this at the expense of those with long-term conditions and will be responding accordingly to the consultation.
You can register your views in response to the consultation at this link.
It will be particularly powerful if you can describe the difference not having to pay for prescription has made to the management of your condition. How would paying prescription charges impact on you financially? You may want to mention other charges or expenses you pay that are associated with your health condition, to explain why your medication is important to you and the role it plays in keeping you well
Prescription charges in England go up to £8.20 tomorrow - having risen for 35 out of the last 36 years.
We have condemned the increase, which is likely to worsen the significant impact charges already have on people with long-term conditions in England. The current system of exemptions for prescription charges has not changed since 1968 and is outdated, arbitrary and unfair.
The Prescription Charges coalition is calling for everyone with a long-term condition to be exempt from charges so that they can manage their condition effectively and get on with their lives.
Northern Ireland Government proposal to reintroduce prescription charges - our response and call to action
On Tuesday 17 February, Northern Ireland Health Minister, Jim Wells MLA announced a consultation on access to new specialist medicines in Northern Ireland. As part of this, the Government want to reconsider the provision of free prescriptions in Northern Ireland. Prescription charges were abolished in Northern Ireland in 2010.
The Prescription Charges Coalition is opposing any reintroduction of charges for people with long-term conditions. We believes that everyone with a long-term condition should be exempt from prescription charges wherever they live in the UK.
In a joint statement, we highlight the fact that medication is extremely important to help people with long-term conditions to manage their symptoms and lead independent lives.
There is a strong evidence base which demonstrates that prescription charges act as a barrier to people with long-term conditions obtaining the medication they require. This can lead to poor management of the condition and complications that may result in greater cost to health and social services.
Read our ‘Paying the Price’ reports here
It is our strongly held view that people with long-term conditions in Northern Ireland would be disadvantaged by the reintroduction of charges and some may be unable to afford their medicines, potentially leading to poor health, increased hospital admissions and lower productivity.
We do not think it is right to consider prescription charges in the context of access to new specialist medicines. Governments can choose how to raise revenue and support the availability of specialist medicines. The Prescription Charges Coalition do not believe it is appropriate, reasonable or fair to do this at the expense of those with long-term conditions and will be responding accordingly to the consultation.
The consultation period will run for twelve weeks until 8 May and there will be a number of public consultation events. The Minister has said that he looks forward to hearing the public’s views.
What you can do
Share our statement with your Northern Ireland Assembly Member by writing to them, tweeting your representative using the hashtag #prescriptioncharges or on Facebook. You can find their contact details here.
Respond to the consultation here highlighting your views and the impact that you consider this would have for you and others with long-term conditions.
It will be particularly powerful if you can describe the difference not having to pay for prescription has made to the management of your condition. How would paying prescription charges impact on you financially? You may want to mention other charges or expenses you pay that are associated with your health condition. You may want to explain why your medication is important to you and the role it plays in keeping you well.
Please do share your responses with us using this feedback form or by emailing email@example.com to inform our response to the government.
It was very encouraging to see support from senior GPs for reform of the system for prescription charges following the release of DTB's survey.
The chairman of the British Medical Association's GP clinical and prescribing subcommittee, Dr Andrew Green told the publication GP:
‘There is simply no rhyme nor reason to the exemption system, the origins of which are lost in the dark ages.
All GPs will be aware of patients who have not completed treatment courses due to difficulties with payment, and the scheme turns dispensing doctors and pharmacists into tax collectors.’
Read the full article here
The Nursing Times also featured the survey with a piece headlined "Practice nurses back overhaul of English script charging system".
Kay Boycott, Chief Executive of Asthma UK, is quoted:
"Any barrier to life-saving medication has the potential to put the lives of people with asthma as risk."
A nurse commented that:
"People often don't get all their inhalers as they cannot always afford them, hence they often have poor control over their asthma/COPD."
Read the full article here
Two thirds of primary care health professionals think that the current exemption criteria for prescription charges in England should be widened to include anyone with a long term condition, reveal the results of a survey commissioned by Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin (DTB).
Nearly 90% think that prescription charges deter some patients from requesting or ‘cashing’ prescriptions.
These findings add further weight to what is already a very strong case for reform of the criteria for medical exemption from charges.
Our research shows that the cost of prescriptions is significantly affecting people’s ability to manage their long term condition effectively and to work. This is leading to worsening health, further cost to the NHS, and days off work. The criteria for medical exemption, set as long ago as 1968, are now strikingly outdated and highly inequitable. Reform, to include all long term conditions, is well overdue.”
The full survey results can be found here.
Prescription Charges Coalition respond to plans to strengthen policing of prescription exemption claims
The Department of Health is planning to more tightly control claims for exemption from prescription charges. This has been widely covered in the media between Christmas and the New Year, including on BBC Online, Radio 4's Today, The Times, The Independent, Daily Mail and Daily Express.
In response, the Prescription Charges Coalition issued the following comment:
“The system for prescription charge exemptions in England is confusing and makes little sense for those with long-term conditions. We are concerned that this push to clamp down on incorrect claims may unfairly penalise those who are unclear over the rules and land them with extra costs they may be able to ill-afford.
This may also cause anxiety and deter people from collecting their essential medication. Our research shows that prescription charges are already leading working age people with long-term conditions to self-ration their medication and compromise their health and ability to work.
This can result in health complications and extra costs down-the-line so is a false economy, as well as being counter to the fundamental principle of an NHS that is free at the point of need. We believe that everyone with a long-term condition in England should be exempt from prescription charges as they are in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.”
The moves have been strongly criticised by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (who are also members of the Prescription Charges Coalition) - you can read their position here.
For information on help with health costs, please visit the NHS website.
Sign our e-petition here.
The Prescription Charges Coalition has submitted written evidence to the Health Select Committee Inquiry into Public Expenditure on Health and Social Care.
The terms of reference for the inquiry include consideration of:
Here you'll find information about the Prescription Charges Coalition's latest activities