Thousands of working age people in England managing serious long-term conditions struggle to pay for their prescriptions. While some conditions exempt individuals from these costs, life-changing conditions such as Parkinson’s, arthritis, asthma, Crohn’s disease, cystic fibrosis, lupus and motor neurone disease do not spare a person from paying prescription charges.
Research released last year highlighted that a third of people with long-term conditions reported not collecting a prescription due to the cost. Over a third also said they skipped or missed medication doses to eke them out until pay-day and then required more medical treatment. This then cost the NHS more in GP appointments and tests. We spoke to one woman, Zoe, who has kidney disease and was hospitalised twice because she had to wait until pay day to collect her prescription. In hospital, she had a lumbar puncture and MRI scan – avoidable treatments if she had taken her medication on time.
But Zoe isn’t alone, many tell us that they make difficult choices between heating their homes, buying food or collecting their prescriptions. Even more worryingly, the cost of prescription items rises annually.
The Government announced that prescription charges increased by 20p to £8.80 from 1 April 2018. For people with long-term conditions, it is bleak news. The price of prescriptions has increased almost every year since 1979, at a pace outstripping inflation. Compounding this, we saw NHS England’s consultation on limiting the prescribing of some medicines close earlier this spring. Such proposals could add to the injustice of exempting just a handful of long-term conditions while many others can expect to face mounting costs.
The pre-payment certificate can help – at £104 a year it is effectively a season ticket for people needing more than one prescription a month. Although it may seem a good deal, it doesn’t help those with fluctuating conditions who may need medicine one month but not the next; while for others it’s still an unaffordable cost to meet upfront.
The list of medical conditions exempt from paying the charge hasn’t changed in 50 years. Published on 10 June 1968, the medical exemption list has remained largely unchanged apart from the addition of cancer in 2009. In the run up to the June anniversary, the Prescription Charges Coalition are calling on the Government to urgently review the medical exemption list.
Please join more than forty organisations and charities representing people with long-term conditions not entitled to free prescriptions by signing and sharing our petition today. Medicine has come a long way in 50 years, but this list is stuck in the past. Join us and call for change!
Do you have a long-term condition that does not entitle you to free prescriptions? Join the fight to end unfair charges in England by sharing your story at firstname.lastname@example.org