Controversial from the start, prescription charges were introduced in 1952, abolished in 1965 and then reintroduced in 1968 with a system of exemptions that persists in modified form today. The charge itself has risen from 20p in 1979 to the current price of £8.60 per item. But is it fair or is it not enough?
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland abolished prescription charges in recent years but in England they remain, although it is for around 10% of the population. Should charges be reinstated within all home counties to help the NHS?
Studies suggest that the rising living and prescription costs deter people from filling their prescription because they can’t afford the £8.60 charge, thus creating unmet health needs and eventually generating a bigger NHS bill further down the line?
National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society (NRAS) reveals that 31% of rheumatoid arthritis suffers issued with a prescription by their GP have not collected it because of the cost.
Prescribing Charges Coalition surveyed three in ten admitted skipping prescriptions or reducing their medications resulting in negative health outcomes or requiring further treatment. 43% of them stated the cost of their prescription charge as the reason for this, and 59% stated that their health deteriorated or that they had developed a related health condition as a result.
The Prescribing Charges Coalition said it would cost £360m-£430m to provide free prescriptions to working-age people with long term conditions and argues that this is less than the hidden cost of them not taking medication because they cannot afford it.
Surely the free prescription policy is a long-term investment to improve people’s health?
Ref: The pharmaceutical journal July 2017 no 7903 Vol 299 p15-18