The world has changed remarkably in the last 50 years, especially in terms of medical and technological advances. In many ways, this is extremely positive for people with Crohn’s Disease, Ulcerative Colitis and other long-term conditions. Greater understanding, more drugs and new surgical techniques have transformed the options and outcomes for people who are living with Crohn’s and Colitis compared to 1968, when the prescription charge exemption criteria were created.
However, there is still no cure available and, in fact, the more we find out, the more complex these conditions turn out to be. What is particularly difficult is that people with similar symptoms often respond differently to the same treatment, which means it can take months or years of pain and frustration to arrive at a treatment that works and, even then, this may fail over time.
We have been told by the Government that the records no longer exist which would explain why certain conditions were included or excluded from the prescription charge exemption list. What we do know is that, because the list hasn’t been comprehensively updated for 50 years, it is completely out of step with changes in the management of Crohn’s and Colitis and many other conditions besides.
In one of the peculiar quirks of the system, those who have a permanent stoma (an opening on the wall of the abdomen that diverts the contents of the bowel out of the body) are eligible for free prescriptions, while those with Crohn’s or Colitis who require continuous medication to manage their condition are not. All clearly face a significant additional cost burden throughout their lives and it is crucial that this is recognised.
This arbitrary distinction makes no sense today and is leading people to self-ration medication they need to keep them well. As a result, flare-ups can occur and can result in people needing stronger and more expensive treatment, potentially leading to surgery and an increased risk of colorectal cancer. This affects their ability to work and can have a devastating impact on family, social life and an individual’s self-esteem.
The current language of the NHS is focused on ‘value’, ‘medicine optimisation’ and ‘self-management’, yet this archaic and inequitable system of charges and exemptions is entirely counterproductive to these aims and it is high time that it was overhauled by the Government.
It’s time for change. It’s time to end prescription charges for people with long-term conditions.
Here you'll find information about the Prescription Charges Coalition's latest activities