The current system of prescription charges in England affects the most vulnerable people in society and makes the health inequality in this country worse.
At the NPA, it’s been our longstanding position that people should not be denied access to prescription medicines on the basis of their ability to pay.
As pharmacists, we understand the healing power of medicines. We also know from first-hand experience that people on low fixed incomes who do not qualify for exemption suffer greatly from the current system.
From a pharmacist’s point of view, processing prescription levies is a task which adds workload but has no patient benefit. We are health care professionals and have no interest in being tax collectors!
We also believe there would be little return on investment to the NHS from proposals to aligning the upper age for NHS prescription charges at 65 years old, due to the various operational costs. It could also lead to indirect cost to the NHS as people’s health suffers from making a reluctant choice not to take their medicines as prescribed.
All prescriptions should be exempt from charges regardless of age or medical condition, as is the case in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Far more value for money can be achieved in the drugs budget by reducing waste and improving medicines use, for example through the NHS New Medicines Service, which has recently been expanded to include Parkinson’s, heart failure and stroke.
Pharmacists, like other health care professionals, experience great pressures on their time and they want to spend it with patients, not with paperwork associated with prescription charges.
The National Pharmacy Association is glad to be part of the prescription charges coalition, seeking reform of this outdated, illogical and unfair system.
Helga is Policy Manager at The National Pharmacy Association.
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