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The cost of living impacts access to prescription medicines says RPS

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) has released the results of a survey showing that pharmacists say the cost of living is having an impact on whether people can afford prescription medicines in England.

RPS has long campaigned to remove prescription charges for people with long-term conditions in England because they create a financial barrier to patients receiving the medicines needed to keep them well. The charge currently stands at £9.35 per item prescribed and an annual rise usually occurs in April. Prescriptions are free for people in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

One in two pharmacists who responded to the survey said they’ve seen an increase in the last six months in patients asking them which medicines on their prescription they can 'do without' due to affordability issues.

One in two pharmacists had seen a rise in people not collecting their prescription, whilst two out of three pharmacists reported an increase in being asked if there was a cheaper, over-the-counter substitute for the medicine they had been prescribed.

Chair of the RPS in England Ms Thorrun Govind said: “We are deeply concerned that people are having to make choices about their health based on their ability to pay. No one should have to make choices about rationing their medicines and no one should be faced with a financial barrier to getting the medicines they need.

“Prescription charges are an unfair tax on health which disadvantages working people on lower incomes who are already struggling with food and energy bills.

“Reducing access to medicines leads to poorer health, time off work and can result in admissions to hospital, the cost of which must be set against any income gained from prescription charges.

“Prescriptions have been free for people in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland for many years. We urgently need an overhaul of the system in England to ensure it supports access to medicines for people with long-term conditions at the sharp end of the cost of living crisis.

“Ultimately we want to see the prescription charge abolished for people with long-term conditions so medicines are free to access in England, just like they are in the rest of the UK.”

Tips for saving money on your medicines include:

  • Depending on how many medicines you need it may be cheaper to buy a prescription ‘season ticket’ known as a prescription prepayment certificate available from the NHS. You will save money if you need more than 3 items in 3 months, or 11 items in 12 months.
  • Ask your pharmacist if there is an equivalent medicine costing less than the charge which you can buy over the counter
  • Ask your pharmacist or GP to review your medicines to ensure they are appropriate and that you get the best out of them.

Catch up with prescription charges coverage in the media

Read more RPS news.

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