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'Patients should not pay for plastic bags containing medicine'

Patients in England should not have to pay for plastic bags carrying medicine, says Pharmacy Voice – as other parts of the UK are already exempt

The government must exempt all medicines sold by pharmacies in England from a proposed 5p plastic bag charge, or risk confusing patients, Pharmacy Voice has said.


The pharmacy body called for England to follow the example of Wales and Northern Ireland by exempting pharmacies from charging for bags that contain prescription and pharmacy-only medicines and appliances, in its response to a government consultation which ran from November 25 to December 20, 2013.


It also recommended the exemption be expanded to include GSL items "in the interest of simplicity". Charging patients for bags of GSL items in Wales and Northern Ireland had been "relatively straightforward" but patients did not understand the difference between medicine classifications, it said.


Pharmacies in Wales and Northern Ireland are  exempt from charging for bags containing presciption and pharmacy-only medicines

More on plastic bag charges

Multiples call for plastic bag charge exemption

Pharmacies in Wales escape plastic bag charge   

Plastic bag charge set to benefit the environment

Consumers would get confused if they had to pay for a bag when they bought a GSL pack of paracetamol, but did not need to when they purchased a larger (pharmacy-only) pack, it added.


The charge for single-use plastic bags, which is due to come into force in October 2015, will apply to businesses with more than 250 employees, who will be expected to donate the proceeds to charity.


In its consultation, the government proposed that businesses provide annual reports on the costs associated with administering the charge. But Pharmacy Voice said pharmacies should only have to publish the number of plastic bags they sold annually and how the money from the charge was used, as providing further information would be an "administrative burden" that prevented pharmacists from providing patient care.


The complex nature of the consultation's proposals, which exclude paper and biodegradable bags, needed to be communicated to the public in a marketing campaign paid for by the government, Pharmacy Voice added.


The Royal Pharmaceutical Society expected a "sensible compromise" to be applied in England if bag charges were introduced, it told C+D last week (January 3).


In September, multiples warned against fully applying the bag charge to pharmacies in England, but disagreed on the level of exemption.


England is the last country in the UK to agree on a mandatory plastic bag charge, following the implementation of charges in Wales in 2011 and in Northern Ireland in April 2013. Scotland is due to implement a similar system this year.




Do you think patients should be exempt from paying for plastic bags containing medicine?

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10 Comments

S S Locum, Locum pharmacist

people will pay if you tell them that the proceeds will go to charity. 5p ,come on, its peanuts!!!!!

M&S charges even if you buy £50 worth!!! -or is that why their profits are down?!!

Leon The Apothecary, Student

I would be insulted and embarrassed to go to a pharmacy where I had to pay for the privilege of keeping whatever medicines I had to take personal and not public for everyone to see.

On the flip side, what's wrong with just using a paper bag instead thus avoiding the charge?

As above. some items are rather too large to go in paper bags. Also, it rains quite a bit in this country....

Amal England, Public Relations

Surely to avoid confusion the best way to go about this is to make everyone pay, whether the bag is supplied with a prescription medicine or P meds or not. Hayley, best time to charge for a bag is when one is dealing with colostomy bags- as this often requires multiple bags. If people are serious about the environment we live in then everyone should play their part and perhaps people should first cut back on food waste and all that packaging that comes with it.

Roger Alden, Community pharmacist

Why are prescriptions different. OK they are necessary but so are potatoes, pies, fruit etc.
Come on Pharmacy, worry about something important.

They're different because of the need for confidentiality.

Would you really want to traipse out of a pharmacy with your colostomy bags on show, for example?

Not all items can be put in a little paper dispensing bag.

Farmer Cyst, Community pharmacist

It'll be a 5p embarrassment tax.

Roger Alden, Community pharmacist

Why not take a bag in with you ,
it's been done before

Farmer Cyst, Community pharmacist

If there has to be a charge for carrier bags the argument for exempting bags containing prescription medicines is pretty thin.

If inhalers had to go CFC free I don't see why we'd be allowed to pump out plastic bags.

Stephen Eggleston, Community pharmacist

Do plastic bags for medicines take less time to rot than "ordinary" plastic bags? I recall (a long time ago, when Bots used to have a record department) all purchases were supplied in a biodegradable plastic bag. How times have changed

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