When I recently wrote about re-issued prescription drugs, I was surprised to hear that many of my friends and family thought they should be free. But what about your original prescription – should it be free too?
If you live in England, at £7.40 a time, prescription charges aren’t cheap. And with the annual increase announced today, the price will rise to £7.65 from 1 April. But in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland prescriptions are free.
So should they be free, or at least cheaper, in England?
Prescription prepayment certificate
I have asthma and the cost of my regular medication currently comes to around £220 each year. From April that will increase by about £10. And while you’d be right in thinking that I’m happy to pay to stay healthy, there is a limit.
However, I was fortunate to discover the prescription prepayment certificate (PPC). This costs £104 a year, and will cover all your prescriptions – you can even spread the cost over the year. Getting a PPC currently saves me over £100 a year for my asthma medication, and would save me even more if I needed any other prescriptions.
But is it really fair that someone with a long-term health condition should have to pay to maintain their quality of life? Or in some cases, stay alive? While some long-term health conditions, such as cancer, diabetes and epilepsy, are exempt from prescription charges, many are not.
Support for low-income families
There is support for people on low incomes, but ‘low income’ is described as a ‘capital limit’ of £16,000 – some households in this position could still struggle to afford prescriptions. In fact, surveys over the last few years have shown people choosing between buying medicine and paying their bills, or even from buying food.
‘You see, food for my family is more important than meds for my pain and condition. Access to medicine should not be determined by whether or not you can afford it. Health should come before profits.’
The Prescription Charges Campaign has been asking the government to make prescriptions free for people with long-term health conditions. And in 2009 the Gilmore Review also advised that anyone with a long-term condition (broadly defined as lasting longer than six months and requiring continuing management, such as medication) should receive free prescriptions.
So, do you think prescriptions should be free for people with long-term conditions? Or could we even go a step further, with free prescriptions for all in England, just like in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland?