The Prescription Charges Coalition has welcomed the UK Government’s promise to scrap harsh proposals that would have ended free prescriptions for 60 to 65-year-olds - but says there still needs to be an urgent review of the outdated prescription charge exemption list.
The Coalition, which brings together around 50 organisations and professional bodies to campaign to scrap prescription charges in England for people with long-term conditions, say the measures would have prevented even more patients from accessing essential medication, which keeps them well and in many cases, alive.
It says prescription charges are leading to patients stopping their medication, cutting tablets in half or only picking up some of their prescriptions due to the crippling cost of living. The Coalition argues that if patients skip their medication it leads to further health problems which cost the NHS significantly more.
The group says prescriptions are unaffordable for many, costing £9.65 for a single item. A three month prescription prepayment certificate (PPC) is £31.25 and a 12 month PPC is £111.60. The recently introduced HRT PPC is £19.30.
Laura Cockram, Chair of the Prescription Charges Coalition and Head of Policy and Campaigns for Parkinson’s UK, said she was relieved the UK Government was not pressing ahead with the worrying proposals but called for a review of the prescription charge exemption list.
She said: “We are pleased to hear the UK Government is scrapping this plan. We know this is a false economy as making people pay for prescriptions can actually cost the NHS more in the long term. And we know this policy would have put financial pressure on an older population which we fear could have had disastrous consequences for their health.
“However abandoning this unpopular plan doesn’t address the underlying problem that the prescription charge exemption system needs to be reviewed urgently. It is putting the health of patients at risk which we fear will intensify as the charges increase.
“Right now, people are having to make very difficult choices about whether they feed their families, pay bills or take their medication, which is essential for them staying well. Instead the charges force unwell people to rely more on the NHS, which is already at breaking point.
“The UK Government’s bid to create a healthier nation will fail if it doesn’t commit to reviewing the outdated prescription charge exemption list."
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