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More than half of readers back Labour plan to cut prescription charge

Jeremy Corbyn: "Scrapping prescription charges for everyone is simple common sense"
Jeremy Corbyn: "Scrapping prescription charges for everyone is simple common sense"

More than half of community pharmacy professionals agree with the Labour party that the prescription charge should be scrapped in England, a C+D poll has suggested.

Ninety-three (55%) of the 169 respondents to the poll – which ran on the C+D website from September 26-October 20 – think prescription charges should be abolished.

The remaining 45% believe the charge – which currently stands at £9 – should be retained.


Do you think the prescription charge should be scrapped in England?
Total votes: 169

C+D ran the poll after the Labour Party pledged last month to scrap prescription charges in England, should it win the next general election.

“Bringing England in line with the rest of the UK by scrapping prescription charges for everyone is simple common sense,” Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn said.

But C+D’s poll suggests community pharmacy professionals are split on Labour’s plans.

Sharing their views at the bottom of C+D’s story on Labour’s pledge, some readers said that making prescriptions free for all could generate more medicine waste.

Others echoed think tank the King’s Fund’s 2014 proposal for a universal prescription charge.

Tony Schofield, superintendent pharmacist at Flagg Court pharmacy in South Shields, told C+D that the charges should be scrapped, as he thinks the “cost of policing the exemptions must be significant” and doubts “the sums raised justify the expenditure”.

“It also polarises pharmacists as the health professionals with the cash register, despite GP practices charging large sums for stuff the NHS doesn’t pay them for,” he added.

Hitesh Panchmatia, director of Howletts Pharmacy, Webber Pharmacy and Southcote Pharmacy in Ruislip, Harrow and Reading respectively, suggested a universal fee of £1 per item.

“Don’t waste time and resources in policing who is eligible and who is not – a small fixed fee for every item [is a] simple and effective [solution],” he said.

“We have seen hordes of medicines being returned from patients who put in repeat [requests] even when they don’t need the medicine, [which] just piles up at home,” he added.

"England should be in line with rest of UK"

Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies CEO Leyla Hannbeck told C+D that prescriptions in England should be free, as they are in other UK countries.

Ms Hannbeck believes the prescription checking process is “a time-consuming exercise and a big bureaucratic burden for pharmacists and their teams in England”.

Her view was echoed by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s director for England Ravi Sharma, who argued that prescription charges can be “barriers in the way of people access their medications, especially for those who [require] vital medicines”.

Mr Sharma said the RPS does not wish “for community pharmacists to be spending lots of time doing admin tasks like checking exemption status” and pharmacists should instead “spend time with patients, providing their expertise and skills around safe and effective use of medicines”.

Malcolm Harrison, chief executive of the Company Chemists’ Association – which represents the UK’s largest multiples – agreed that “the prescription charge may restrict some people’s access to medicines”.

However, if prescription charges are removed, this money “would need to be found elsewhere”, he pointed out.

“Regardless of the future of the prescription charge, we strongly believe that community pharmacists should not have to police the collection of prescription fees for the government, and we would expect digital technology to allow more modern solutions to be found.”

A poll run by C+D in 2015 revealed that a quarter of pharmacists see patients who cannot afford a prescription once or more a day.

Do you think prescription charges should be scrapped?

geoffrey gardener, Community pharmacist

Whilst agreeing with NHS charges, I think £9 is a bit over the top.

ABC DEF, Primary care pharmacist

Another nail to the coffin to kill off NHS for good. Wastage and over-ordering are already huge problems that require imminent action to have these cut down, and with this move it can only get so much worse but not better. No one cares and people see no value in things they get for free, medicines alike. If it's all free of charge it will be taken for granted for sure and wastage can only go sky high to add even much more financial pressure to the already severely crippled NHS. People need to realise we simply cannot keep taking from the system without putting anything back. If this eventually goes through I bet NHS won't even last for another 5 years, or less. Good luck with the American privatised system thereafter that people simply cannot afford to be ill. 


Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

I just hate inequality. I think it is grossly unfair that Scotland and Wales have free prescriptions for all but England don't. I think the rules, whatever they are, either free or paid for, should apply over the whole of the UK rather than just selected bits.

Female Tech, Pharmacy technician

I agree with Hitesh, a small nominal fee for absolutely everyone is the way forward. It'd stop the wasters clogging up GPs and A&E to get 32 paracetamol and 24 ibuprofen for free

Bob Dunkley, Locum pharmacist

Well, as Labour won't get in, it remains academic. It is a bad move, people do not ascribe value to something that is free.

Caroline Jones, Community pharmacist

We can but hope!

Uma Patel, Community pharmacist

Ask those 55% if they are prepared to pay more tax to fund their aspirations

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

Seeing as I'm at that age where things are starting to go seriously bosoms-up but I don't get free prescriptions, I believe I would be prepared.

Claude Pereira, Locum pharmacist

I dont think the sample size of 169 is a true reflection of all the Pharmacists in the UK im afraid!

Caroline Jones, Community pharmacist

Why shouldn’t community pharmacy ‘police’ prescription charges? Surely they are the most appropriate? Dentists and Opticians have to ‘police’ whether patients get their services ‘free’, why are medicines different!

Totally disagree that all medicines should be free...they is enough waste in the system already by those who get things ‘free’

Surely £104/year is not a lot to ask people to pay for their medicines....some of which actually keep them alive!


Snake Plissken, Student

Right!! And what about GP practices that actually issue the scripts? Surely they shouldn't have to take any payment for issuing prescriptions that are then bought to a chemist for you work out and tell the poor soul who has to pay...right!! 

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