People with LTCs struggle to access medicine, research reveals
A campaign group has called on the government to freeze the prescription charge next year and stop prescribers reducing the duration of prescriptions after its study found people with long-term conditions including Parkinson’s disease are struggling to access their medicine.
The Prescription Charges Coalition published their recommendations today in a report that was underpinned by its own research revealing almost one in 10 people have skipped medication in the last 12 months because of the cost of prescriptions. The prescription charge will increase from £9.35 to £9.65 for each medicine or appliance dispensed from April 1.
Nearly a third who have missed medication have other physical health problems on top of their original LTC while 37 per cent also have mental health problems. More than half had to take time off work because of deteriorating health, 12 per cent who pay for their NHS prescriptions cut their medication in half to make it last longer and 35 per cent said they got the duration of their prescription changed, leading to them paying more frequently for their medicines.
Nearly two in five people with LTCs discovered the existence of prescription prepayment certificates, which spread the cost of medicines, over a year after their diagnosis. The survey involved more than 4,000 people and was conducted between February and March.
The research revealed people who were unable to pay for their medicines increasingly went to their GP, turned up at accident and emergency departments and stayed in hospitals for as much as six weeks. Some respondents said not being able to afford their medication led to mental health problems which in turn led to time off work.
As well as recommending a 2024 freeze on the prescription charge and an end to the reduction in prescription duration, the Coalition also urged the government to urgently carry out an independent review of the charge exemption list and examine how scrapping the charge has benefitted people in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales and improved health inequalities.
In England, asthma, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s and Colitis, motor neurone disease, cystic fibrosis, stroke and Parkinson's are still absent from the exemptions list.
The Coalition also called on Number 10 to scrap plans to align prescription charges with the state pension age and ensure everyone with an LTC has information about prescription charge entitlements, such as low income schemes and PPCs. It said pharmacies and GP surgeries should display this information in their premises.