NHS prescription fee rise to £7.65 comes in to effect
An increase in NHS prescription charges in England of 25p to £7.65 has come into effect.
Health Minister Simon Burns outlined the changes earlier this year, and the government says exemptions mean 90% of prescription items are dispensed free.
The Royal Pharmaceutical Society campaigned for a freeze and says the rises are completely unacceptable.
Dental treatment costs will also rise. There are no prescription charges in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.
In England, the cost of a prepaid prescription payment certificate (PPC), which is valid for three months, will remain at £29.10, while the price of an annual PPC will be held at £104. The certificates save money for people need a lot of medication.
Further increases include:
- The cost of hospital-supplied elastic stockings and tights, wigs and fabric supports.
- A 2.5% rise in the cost of vouchers for glasses for children, people on low incomes and those with complex sight problems.
- The dental charge payable for a basic "band 1" course of treatment - examination, diagnosis and advice, including X-rays, a scale and polish and planning for further work if necessary - will rise 50p to £17.50.
- Band 2 charges, covering fillings, root canal treatment and extractions, will rise by £1 to £48.
- For band 3 work, such as crowns, dentures and bridges, the cost will increase by £5 to £209.
The government says abolishing prescription charges in England would leave the NHS £450m short each year.
But the British Medical Association has said the current system is "unfair" and called for prescription charges to be scrapped in England.
Neal Patel, from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, told the BBC he worried those with chronic conditions might neglect their health because they could not afford the charges in the current economic climate.
He said he would like to see the "unfairness" reformed.
"The prescription charge system at the moment seems to penalise people that have certain long-term conditions, but not others.
"It is perhaps a false economy to think if we don't take these medicines there is a reduced cost to that patient. But, longer term, they may end up in hospital and cost the NHS more."
A Department for Health spokesman said it was investing an additional £12.5bn in the NHS and had found an extra £4.5bn for patient services by "cutting back on bureaucracy".
He said the £450m funding from prescription charges was "valuable income" - equivalent to the salary costs of 18,000 nurses, or 15,000 midwives, or 3,500 hospital consultants.
"This income helps the NHS to maintain vital services for patients."
Those exempt from prescription charges include children under 16, income-related benefit claimants, pregnant women and people with serious long-term medical conditions. Contraception is free.
Free prescriptions were introduced in Wales in 2007, Northern Ireland in 2010 and Scotland in 2011.