The Department of Health and Social Care have confirmed that prescription charges will not rise in 2022.
We are pleased as we know people with long term conditions are struggling to afford their vital medication, with the rising cost of living. That's why we're calling on the UK Government to review the list and scrap the charge.
Our comment was picked up by The Daily Express. Pharmacy organisations who are members of the Coalition shared examples of how damaging the charge is, as patients make tough decision about what medications they leave behind, because they simply can't afford them.
A Coalition spokesperson said:
“We welcome the decision to freeze prescription charges this year, however the English Government still lags behind their Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish counterparts in recognising that this charge is a false economy and must be scrapped entirely.
“Despite the freeze, the cost of living continues to spiral, so pharmacists are seeing an increase in the number of people asking which items they could leave behind and live without, simply because they can not afford them.
“It’s entirely unfair that the UK Government is putting this unnecessary pressure on pharmacists to have to provide counsel on which of these vital medications should be prioritised by the patient. That is not their job and it’s seldom a simple answer.
“When people miss or delay taking essential medication, their condition deteriorates and they are more likely to rely on NHS services more, or even end up in hospital.
“These are entirely avoidable admissions which cost the NHS millions, and can have damaging consequences for the patient.
“We have recently seen that the UK Government is willing to make changes to how HRT is charged, but now it's time to make healthcare equitable for all.”
The current system of prescription charges in England affects the most vulnerable people in society and makes the health inequality in this country worse.
At the NPA, it’s been our longstanding position that people should not be denied access to prescription medicines on the basis of their ability to pay.
As pharmacists, we understand the healing power of medicines. We also know from first-hand experience that people on low fixed incomes who do not qualify for exemption suffer greatly from the current system.
From a pharmacist’s point of view, processing prescription levies is a task which adds workload but has no patient benefit. We are health care professionals and have no interest in being tax collectors!
We also believe there would be little return on investment to the NHS from proposals to aligning the upper age for NHS prescription charges at 65 years old, due to the various operational costs. It could also lead to indirect cost to the NHS as people’s health suffers from making a reluctant choice not to take their medicines as prescribed.
All prescriptions should be exempt from charges regardless of age or medical condition, as is the case in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Far more value for money can be achieved in the drugs budget by reducing waste and improving medicines use, for example through the NHS New Medicines Service, which has recently been expanded to include Parkinson’s, heart failure and stroke.
Pharmacists, like other health care professionals, experience great pressures on their time and they want to spend it with patients, not with paperwork associated with prescription charges.
The National Pharmacy Association is glad to be part of the prescription charges coalition, seeking reform of this outdated, illogical and unfair system.
Helga is Policy Manager at The National Pharmacy Association.
Here you'll find information about the Prescription Charges Coalition's latest activities