Prescription charges are causing medicines poverty

nealpatel2By Neal Patel, Head of Communications, RPS

The Government announced today that prescription charges in England will rise from £7.85 to £8.05 on 1st April.

Prescription charges have risen for 34 of the past 35 years.  Research consistently shows 1 in 3 people who work and have a long-term condition struggle to afford their medicines.  Many have to choose between paying for their medicine or household bills such as food and heating.  They face medicines poverty because they have a lifelong illness they don’t want.  How can this be fair?  And what can be done about it?

The Prescription Charges Coalition – a group of 29 leading charities and organisations including the RPS  – is calling on all political parties address this fundamental inequality by committing to delivering free prescriptions for people with long-term conditions, and getting rid of the unfair list of selective exemptions that was drawn up in 1968, which remains Department of Health policy to this day.

Their new report, Prescription Charges and Employment, makes a powerful case for reform. They surveyed over 5,000 people with long-term conditions not exempt from charges and found that more than a third of people find it hard to pay for their prescriptions.  Patients are rationing or stopping taking them altogether to cope financially, compromising their health.  Three quarters of these people said their ability to work was affected as a result, with 70% needing to take time off work.  Over half reported poorer performance at work as a result of not taking their medicines.

In effect, if you live in England and are unlucky enough to have a long term condition, you have a high chance of living in medicines poverty and possibly losing your job unless you have an understanding employer.

According to the government’s own figures, over 15 per cent of people aged 20-29 have at least one long-term condition, rising to 40 per cent of in those aged 50-59. This amounts to a significant proportion of the workforce who could be affected.

Help end medicines poverty for people who have to choose between taking medicines and putting food on the table.  Join us by signing the Coalition’s e-petition calling on the Government to end the unfair and outdated system of prescription charges for millions of people in England with long-term conditions.