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Prescription charges

Labour government would axe prescription charges, says shadow health secretary

A Labour government “will abolish all prescription charges” if the party wins power at the next general election, the shadow health secretary has said.

Speaking to the Labour Party Conference in Brighton on 22 September 2019, shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth described prescription charges as “a tax on illness” as part of a wider call for an end to health inequalities.

He told delegates that the party “cannot fully tackle inequalities if those with chronic conditions are forced to choose between paying for a prescription or putting food on their table”.

“I can confirm the next Labour government will abolish all prescription charges,” he said. 

The commitment comes after prescription fees increased in April 2019 from £8.80 to £9.00, which the government said would contribute towards the £22bn in efficiency savings that the NHS is expected to make by 2020.

survey by Asthma UK in February 2019 found that three-quarters of patients who have to pay for prescriptions to treat their asthma struggle to afford them and 57% of people who have asthma had cut back on medication because of the cost.

Meanwhile, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) criticised NHS England’s penalty charge notice system on 20 September 2019, which fines people up to £100 for wrongly claiming a free prescription, for being “heavy handed” and punitive.

In response to the PAC report, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society reiterated its call for England to “follow Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and offer free prescriptions to all patients, so they always have the medicines they need without having to make payment decisions”.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2019.20207096

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