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Home  »   Latest News   »   Fears 1 April prescriptions price rise will mean more patients skip vital medications

Fears 1 April prescriptions price rise will mean more patients skip vital medications

The prescription charge price hike that will come into effect this Saturday 1 April will create a health emergency and could see more patients in hospital.

Fri 31st March 2023 The PDA

The Prescription Charges Coalition, which brings together around 50 organisations and professional bodies, including the PDA, to campaign to scrap prescription charges in England for people with long term conditions, says the measures will stop even more people from accessing essential medication.

On 9 March 2023, the health minister, Neil O’Brien announced that prescription charges would rise from 1 April 2023 to £9.65 for a single item and a three month prescription prepayment certificate (PPC) will be £31.25 and a 12 month PPC will be £111.60. The recently introduced HRT PPC will cost £19.30.

The coalition says prescription charges are already leading to patients stopping their medication, cutting tablets in half, or only picking up some of their prescriptions due to the crippling cost of living. It argues that if patients skip their medication it leads to further health problems which cost the NHS significantly more.

This comes as a recent survey conducted by the coalition revealed how patients are paying the price for their health conditions, as it has led to increased visits to GPs, trips to A&E, mental health issues, and hospital stays with some respondents in hospital for up to six weeks.

The poll of 4,000 patients revealed that one in ten skip medications due to cost. This has led to almost a third of those developing secondary health issues and over half taking sick days, heaping a bigger financial burden on employers and the NHS, which is already at breaking point.

Some serious conditions such as asthma, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s and Colitis, motor neurone disease, cystic fibrosis, stroke, and Parkinson’s are still not included on the prescription charge exemption list. England is the only UK country where people have to pay for their prescriptions.

Laura Cockram, Chair of the Prescription Charges Coalition and Head of Policy and Campaigns for Parkinson’s UK, said, “The prescription charge exemption list needs urgent reform. It is not meeting the needs of people with long term conditions, and is putting their health at risk which we fear will intensify as the charges increase.

“The system is failing people with long term conditions who are being forced to make tough choices every day about whether they feed their families, pay their bills or take their medication, which as we have seen from our survey could keep them out of hospital.

“We know the price rise will result in sick people relying more on NHS services that are already at breaking point.

“Far from this government’s aim of improving life expectancy for people with stroke, dementia, asthma and mental ill health, this increase in the prescription charge will create a health emergency for people with these conditions and other long term conditions in England. The UK government must urgently commit to reviewing the prescription charges exemption list, or it will fail in its bid to create a healthier nation.”

The coalition is asking the UK government to commit to freezing the charge for 2024

After recent speculation, it hopes to hear an announcement that the government plans to scrap its proposals to align prescriptions charges with the state pension age.

The group also wants information about prescription charge entitlements, including the low income scheme and prepayment certificates, given to all those with long term conditions when they are diagnosed with their condition.

Prescription charges were introduced in 1952, abolished in 1965 and reintroduced in 1968 with a system of exemptions that continues today. The charge itself has risen almost every year since 1979, although the charges were frozen last year by the Health Secretary, to recognise the impact of the cost of living.

The UK government states that 89% of prescriptions in England are currently dispensed without charge, but most of the income to the NHS from prescription charges comes from working-age people with long term conditions.

While certain health conditions entitle people to a medical exemption certificate and therefore free prescriptions, only a handful of conditions qualify.

Aside from the addition of cancer in 2009, the list of exempt conditions has not changed since 1968, even though there have been significant medical advances. For instance, people with childhood conditions like cystic fibrosis who were not expected to survive, or conditions that didn’t even exist at the time, like HIV.

For more information and to sign up, visit the Prescription Charges Coalition website.

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