The Prescription Charges Coalition has launched a petition calling on the government to end fees for people with long-term conditions, following fresh evidence that cost is preventing patients from taking their medication.
The online petition, which launched on Tuesday (March 11), was prompted by a report from the coalition that revealed that more than a third of patients with long-term conditions had been prevented from taking their medicines as prescribed because of cost.
The coalition, whose 30 members include the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS), called for more flexibility to prescribe for longer than 28 days. Asking patients to pay a single charge for a batch of up to six months' worth of prescriptions was likely to increase medicine adherence, it said.
"I'm deeply concerned
that some people have
to make choices about
based on their ability
Ash Soni, RPS English Pharmacy Board vice-chair
More on prescription charges
Of the 37 per cent of patient with long-term conditions who could not afford all their medication, almost three-quarters had to take time off work as a result, according to the Prescription Charges and Price report published by the coalition last month (February 26).
More than 5,000 people of working age with conditions such as multiple sclerosis, asthma, Parkinson's and rheumatoid arthritis were surveyed for the report. Fifty-four per cent of those that struggled to pay for their medication said their work had suffered as a consequence.
Thirty-two per cent of the same group said they had difficulty getting up or motivating themselves to go to work. One respondent with multiple sclerosis reported skipping doses of his medication "so it lasts longer" and said their work performance had been "hugely affected".
Although cost was more likely to be a barrier for people on lower incomes, people on higher incomes were also affected, the report found. Younger people were more likely to ration medication by prioritising them below household bills and food, it added.
The petition's launch coincided with the government's announcement of a 20p increase to the prescription charge, with a further 20p hike scheduled for next year.
Do you think the prescription charge should be scrapped for those with long-term conditions?