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19 steps to today's prescription charge

The charge for NHS medicines has been controversial since it was first introduced in 1952. Even more controversial has been its stellar rise from 20p to £8.05 in England, despite being abolished in other parts of the UK

1952  Prescription charges are first introduced on a universal basis. The move prompts the resignation of NHS founder Aneurin Bevan, who feels the charge undermines the principle of a free health service

1959  The prescription charge rises from one shilling per item to two shillings per item

1965  Prime minister Harold Wilson abolishes the prescription charge

1968  Harold Wilson is forced to reintroduce the charge, but sets out exemptions based on age, income and medical conditions

1971  The prescription charge is 20p and there is no increase for another eight years

1979 Prescription charges increase to 45p and start to rise much faster than inflation



1980  Prescription charge reaches £1

1990  Controversy rises over government plans to raise prescription charge to £3.05

1997  Department of Health publishes report on how to reduce fraudulent claims for free prescriptions. It contains 100 recommendations, including incorporating UV fibre and anti-photocopying features into FP10 forms

2000  Prescriptions cost £6 per item

2006  Health select committee brands exemptions to the charge “confusing” and out of date

2007 Wales abolishes prescription charge

2008 Prime minister Gordon Brown pledges to exempt people with long-term conditions from the prescription charge. The pledge is never fulfilled



2010 Northern Ireland abolishes prescription charge

2011 Scotland abolishes prescription charge. The charge is £7.40 in England.

2012 Prescription charge rises to £7.65 in England

2013 Prescription charge rises to £7.85 in England

2014 Prescription charge rises to £8.05 in England

2015 Government calls on pharmacists in England to police fraudulent free prescription claims

Sources: The King’s Fund: A new settlement for health and social care; HSCIC: Prescriptions dispensed in the community 2003-13; The Prescription Charges Coalition: Paying the Price: Prescription charges and people with long-term conditions


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