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Pharmacists warn of impact of prescription charges on patient care

Pharmacists have warned they are increasingly seeing patients in England declining to take vital medicines due to the cost of prescription charges.

Responding to a survey by the Pharmacists’ Defence Association and Royal Pharmaceutical Society, more than a third of pharmacists (35%) said they have seen an increase in patients declining prescriptions in the last 12 months.

97% of respondents have seen cases where patients decline some of the medicines on a prescription due to cost. More than a quarter (26%) said they saw this often.

The type of medicines being declined include those for blood pressure, inhalers, pain relief, statins and mental health.

The warning adds to the voices of leading patient groups calling for reform to prescription charges.

The Pharmacists’ Defence Association and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society are members of the Prescription Charges Coalition, a coalition of more than 50 organisations including leading patient groups, calling on the Government to scrap prescription charges for people with long-term conditions in England.

Chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society in England Tase Oputu said:

“These survey results show a worrying rise in people not taking up the medicines they have been prescribed. Amid an ongoing cost of living crisis, prescription charges risk widening health inequalities in England.

“Nobody should face a financial barrier to accessing the medicines they need to stay well. Prescription charges are an unfair tax on health and increase the risk of avoidable hospital admissions, piling on pressure to the wider health service.

“The prescription charges system is confusing for patients and creates unnecessary bureaucracy for pharmacy teams who want to focus their time on patient care.

“In a general election year, I hope that political parties can commit to properly reviewing this complex and unjust system. It is high-time this stealth tax was abolished.”

Read the survey results

The call to scrap prescription charges in England is a key issue in our general election manifesto. Find out how you can support the campaign at www.rpharms.com/manifesto.

You can also sign this petition calling on the Government to freeze the annual prescription charge increase in 2024/25.

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