NHS prescription charges have gone up again leaving vulnerable people at risk of being unable to afford medicine.
Prescription items are currently £9.15, which is set to go up to £9.35 in England from April 1.
It comes after the price was increased by 15p last year, and 20p in both 2019 and 2018.
The cost was £7.40 ten years ago, in 2011.
From April 1, the price of a three-month prescription will become £30.25 (an increase of 60p) and a 12-month prescription will be £108.10 (an increase of £2.20), according to the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC).
Pharmacy bodies have long called for England to scrap the prescription charge.
Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland do not have charges on prescriptions.
Laura Cockram, chairwoman of the Prescription Charges Coalition, said: “By continuing to drive up the cost of prescriptions, the Government is ignoring clear evidence that the charge is a false economy that leaves people unable to afford vital medication, which can then place increased pressure on the NHS through emergency hospital admissions.
“No-one should be forced to choose between eating or heating their home and paying for vital medication.
“At this highly volatile economic time, it is incredibly disappointing that yet again, people with long-term conditions are being penalised by an outdated prescription charges system.”
The coalition called for a review of the Government’s “widely outdated exemption list which was created when some conditions, like HIV, didn’t even exist”.
Ms Cockram added: “It needs to take the time to do this rather than just ploughing on with the price increase so people with long-term conditions like Parkinson’s, asthma and MS, are no longer penalised for having the ‘wrong condition’.”
Who is exempt from prescription charges?
You can get free NHS prescriptions if, at the time the prescription is dispensed, you:
- are 60 or over
- are under 16
- are 16 to 18 and in full-time education
- are pregnant or have had a baby in the previous 12 months and have a valid maternity exemption certificate (MatEx)
- have a specified medical condition and have a valid medical exemption certificate (MedEx)
- have a continuing physical disability that prevents you going out without help from another person and have a valid medical exemption certificate (MedEx)
- hold a valid war pension exemption certificate and the prescription is for your accepted disability
- are an NHS inpatient
Medical exemption certificates are issued if you have:
- cancer, including the effects of cancer or the effects of current or previous cancer treatment
- a permanent fistula (for example, a laryngostomy, colostomy, ileostomy or some renal dialysis fistulas) requiring continuous surgical dressing or an appliance
- a form of hypoadrenalism (for example, Addison’s disease)
- diabetes insipidus or other forms of hypopituitarism
- diabetes mellitus, except where treatment is by diet alone
- myasthenia gravis
- myxoedema (hypothyroidism requiring thyroid hormone replacement)
- epilepsy requiring continuous anticonvulsive therapy
- a continuing physical disability that means you cannot go out without the help of another person (temporary disabilities do not count, even if they last for several months)
You’re also entitled to free prescriptions if you or your partner (including civil partner) receive, or you’re under the age of 20 and the dependant of someone receiving various income support.
Read more about who can get free NHS prescriptions.
Amendments to the National Health Service (Charges for Drugs and Appliances) Regulations were laid before Parliament on Tuesday, according to the legislation website page.
Announcing the increase, PSNC Chief Executive Simon Dukes said: “The prescription charge increase is our yearly reminder that the Government mandates community pharmacy teams to be not only clinicians but also tax collectors.
“After the year that pharmacy teams have all experienced, the continued use of front-line healthcare staff for this purpose is unwelcome and inappropriate.”
It comes after bodies including PSNC and the British Medical Association (BMA) called on Health Secretary Matt Hancock to temporarily remove the charge during the pandemic in April last year.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman said: “Nearly 90 per cent of prescription items are dispensed free of charge in community pharmacies in England and existing exemptions are in place covering children, pregnant women, and those over 60, on a low income or with medical conditions like cancer, epilepsy and diabetes.
“Patients with long-term conditions or on a low income can apply for a range of prescription charge exemptions or additional support through the NHS Low Income scheme.
“Patients can also buy prepayment certificates to cover all the prescriptions they need for just over £2 per week.”