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Prescription charge in England set to rise to £8.05

Prescription Charges Coalition criticises increase and calls for an end to charges for patients with long-term conditions

Prescription charges in England are set to rise from £7.85 to £8.05 from 1 April 2014, with a further 20p increase planned for next year, according to a written ministerial statement released today (11 March 2014).

The increase has been condemned by the Prescription Charges Coalition — an alliance of over 30 organisations, including the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, concerned about the impact of prescription charges on people with long-term conditions.

Following the announcement, the RPS called for greater flexibility in how medicines are prescribed for patients with stable long-term conditions, suggesting that prescription charges should be linked to the authorisation of batches of repeat prescriptions rather than to each individual prescription form.

“Repeat dispensing schemes enabling a prescriber to issue a batch of monthly prescriptions held by a pharmacy of the patient’s choice could be more effectively utilised,” said Ash Soni, vice-chairman of the RPS English Pharmacy Board. “Linking the prescription charge to the repeat authorisation, rather than to each prescription form, is likely to increase medicine adherence through reduced costs and inconvenience for this very specific group of patients. It would also relieve pressure on GP workloads, while maintaining oversight and effective medicines optimisation at pharmacy level.”

Mr Soni suggested that such a move would “shift the provision of care to individual patient needs and circumstances” and allow the prescriber, patient and pharmacist to agree on the most appropriate period of time between batches of repeat prescriptions.

Mr Soni’s comments follow release of a new report from the Prescription Charges Coalition on the effects of charges on employment.

The coalition surveyed over 4,000 people of working age with chronic conditions such as asthma, inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis, depression, Parkinson’s disease, HIV, migraine and rheumatoid arthritis. Over one-third of respondents reported that prescription charges were preventing them from taking their medicines as prescribed. Of these, three-quarters reported an impact on their ability to work. And over half reported that their performance at work had suffered. Other impacts included difficulty seeking work, travelling to work and motivating themselves to work, as a result of not taking their medicines.

The report acknowledges that the prescription prepayment certificate helps some patients with long-term conditions. “However, the prescription prepayment certificate remains a significant cost for individuals and is not always worthwhile for those with fluctuating or unpredictable conditions. It is held that prescription charges raise valuable revenue for the NHS. However, the evidence from our surveys and previous research indicates that this may be outweighed by the costs to the NHS and society as a whole of continuing to charge people with long-term conditions in England for their prescription,” the report states.

To coincide with its report, the Prescription Charges Coalition has launched an e-petition calling on the Government to end prescription charges in England for everyone with a long-term condition.

Commenting on the report’s findings, Mr Soni said: “I’m deeply concerned that some people have to make choices about essential medicines based on their ability to pay. It’s time to find a fairer way forward for people with long-term conditions.”

The price of prescription prepayment certificates will remain the same, at £29.10 for three months and £104 for a year.

The Regulations will also increase NHS dental charges, along with charges for wigs and fabric supports, from 1 April 2014. Optical voucher values will rise by 2 per cent overall.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2014.11135742

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