Health

Prescription charges to rise by 20p in England

  • 1 March 2013
  • From the section Health
pills

The cost of prescription charges in England will rise by 20p to £7.85 from 1 April, the government has announced.

In other parts of the UK, prescriptions are free.

The British Medical Association has previously said the current system is "unfair" and wants prescription charges to be scrapped in England.

Those exempt from charges in England include children under 16, income-related benefit claimants and pregnant women.

Free prescriptions were introduced in Wales in 2007, Northern Ireland in 2010 and Scotland in 2011.

The health minister Lord Howe said: "The government is investing more than £12.5bn of extra money in the NHS and we are on course to save £5bn over this financial year, all of which will be re-directed into front-line care.

"In England, around 90% of prescription items are dispensed free."

The government said they had frozen the price of prescription pre-payment certificates for a further year. This means anyone who needs 14 or more prescription items in a year can get all the prescriptions they need for an average cost of £2 per week.

Lord Howe added: "We have also increased the optical voucher values by 1% to help eligible patients continue to get access to glasses and contact lenses."

Neal Patel, spokesperson for the Royal Pharmaceutical Society said the news of the increase in prescription charges was "deeply disappointing".

"Hitting patients in the pocket when they are already suffering from long-term health problems heaps unfairness on top of illness.

"We know from speaking to patients of working age who pay for their prescriptions that that cost can be a major barrier to them getting the life-saving medicines they need.

He added: "We are deeply concerned that some people have to make choices about their health based on their ability to pay."

Joseph Clift, policy manager at the British Heart Foundation, said that the growing financial burden of expensive prescription charges could not be ignored.

"People living with heart disease, or at risk of the disease, should be focusing on getting better and keeping well - not worrying about how they're going to pay for their next vital prescription."

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