Abolition demand for prescription charges

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Two thirds of GPs, pharmacists and nurses believe exemptions for prescription charges in England should be widened to include anyone with a long-term condition, a poll finds today.

The survey by the Drugs & Therapeutics Bulletin also found most wanted charges lowered or abolished altogether.

England is the only one of the four UK countries to charge patients for prescription drugs. Age, income, and certain medical exemptions apply.

But while some people with long-term conditions, such as diabetes and cancer, do not have to pay for their drugs, others with conditions, including asthma and multiple sclerosis, do.

An estimated seven million people of working age in England have a long-term condition.

Prescription Charges Coalition spokeswoman, Jackie Glatter, of the charity Crohn’s and Colitis UK, said: “These findings add further weight to a very strong case for reform of the criteria for medical exemption from the charges.”

“Our research shows that the cost of prescriptions is significantly affecting people’s ability to manage their long-term condition effectively and to work. This is leading to worsening health, further cost to the NHS, and days off work. The criteria for medical exemption, set as long ago as 1968, are now strikingly outdated and highly inequitable. Reform, to include all long-term conditions, is well overdue.”

David Phizackerley, deputy editor of the bulletin, said: “The survey has clearly highlighted the need for a major overhaul of NHS prescription charges. The current system is seen as a barrier that stops some people from requesting or receiving prescriptions. Exemption criteria for NHS prescription charges are illogical, outdated and unfair.”