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Unaffordable prescriptions a daily issue for quarter of readers

Nine per cent of C+D readers were unable to dispense an item at least three times a day because the patient could not afford it

The Prescription Charges Coalition, which campaigns for expanding exemptions to the charge, has branded C+D's findings "shocking but not surprising"

A quarter of pharmacists see patients who cannot afford a prescription once or more a day, a C+D reader poll has suggested.

Nine per cent of the 79 respondents to the poll, which ran from March 5 to 6, said they were unable to dispense an item because a patient could not afford the charge three or more times a day. The problem occurred once or twice a day for 16 per cent of readers and three quarters said it happened less than once a day.

Jackie Glatter of the Prescription Charges Coalition, which campaigns for charges to be scrapped for patients with long-term conditions, said the results were “shocking” but “not surprising”.

“They corroborate our own survey findings that over one third of those with long-term conditions are not collecting or taking the essential medication they need because of the cost,” said Ms Glatter, who is also health and public service development manager at charity Crohn’s and Colitis UK.

The government announced plans to increase charges in England by 15p last week, and Ms Glatter told C+D this was “likely to exacerbate the significant impact that prescription charges have on people with long-term conditions”.

C+D conducted a follow-up survey from March 6 to 11 of 139 pharmacists who encountered patients unable to afford their prescription less than once day. Twenty-seven per cent experienced this issue between once and five times a week, while 73 per cent encountered it less than once a week.

Commenting on C+D’s findings, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) - a member of the Prescription Charges Coalition - said the prescription charges system was "profoundly unfair”. “No-one can doubt that the lottery of selective exemptions from the prescription charge – unaltered since 1968 – needs wholesale reform,” RPS president Ash Soni told C+D.

The Northern Irish government said last month that it was considering reintroducing prescription charges to raise money for specialist drugs, and Ms Glatter stressed that this was also a “real concern” for patients with long-term conditions.



Is the prescription charge jeopardising the health of your patients? 

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Pharmacy HLP, Manager

What improvements in medical treatment, medicine usage or wastage if any have been seen in Wales with free prescriptions for all ?

Gerry Diamond, Primary care pharmacist

We need to push three monthly or more prepayment certificates if people are on multiple medicines and working with no other immediate solution form government coming any time soon. Sorry state of affairs if even one person cannot pay for their prescription.

SP Ph, Community pharmacist

I had posted this a while ago on another post ********** For some quick stats. The NHSBSA stats for December 2014 for PCTs (now CCGs under Area Teams) show that in total 86.85 million items were dispensed. Taking this as an average monthly number for discussion sake, even if you charge 50p per item the Gvt would make £43.425mln or about £500mln per annum. If the target was £150mln then we only need to charge about 16.66pence per item and if we charge £1 per item then qe get £1.0 billion in 1 year. So friends can we discuss this now??

N O, Pharmaceutical Adviser

Totally Agree. If the item charge is 50p, then even the 16 item scripts would only cost £8.00/ month, lesser than a single item fee at the moment. But then, they would never vote the Govt. who introduces this system, back to power, ever again. So indirectly it is a charge paid to a voter by prospective Govt. any thoughts ???

Angela Channing, Community pharmacist

Totally agree with you N O . And as it was a Labour government that invented the NHS, then I do believe it must be a Labour government to make these huge changes. If DC and co try it, (and look at the out-cry over his re-organisation) the Conservatives would be out of office for a generation, probably never to govern again, or be tarnished as 'nasty' more than under even 'the Blessed Margaret'! If that were possible?

Leon The Apothecary, Student

I've done some math regarding prescription fees. I could cut costs by over half per item, raise £70 million extra per year for the NHS, and still allow age exemptions to continue based off the most recent dispensing figures.

Angela Channing, Community pharmacist

Have you thought of going into politics??? You would be very good. Most of them can't do sums! Although George has a pretty good try, but don't mention this to the 2 Ed's! They think we're on the Road to Wigan Pier.

Meera Sharma, Community pharmacist

I agree with the rest of the comments here, scrap free prescriptions and put a nominal fee in place instead. It will definately stop hoarding, over-ordering and the no-vale of medicines attitude that we see day in and day out in every health setting. The NHS was free over 60 years ago, when it suited the population needs at the time. Move forward in time, it is not suited to it's population through sheer scale of economies and we still keep insiting on providing free services - seriously, not sustainable by a long shot. Yet, instead of changing the fundamental structure, we're tweaking bits like prescription charges to raise revenue for a system that is broken. One has go to admire the business sense of whoever thought of this increase!

Kerry Nelson, Pharmaceutical Adviser

I have worked in pharmacy for 14 yrs and have never had anyone say I can't afford to pay and yet I live in an area of increased social poverty. I suspect these patient's that can't afford it...smoke..drink and eat out..yet won't take responsibility for their own health I agree with other comments...everyone should pay...a flat rate of £1 per item regardless of condition. Nothing in life is free...about time people started to realise this.

Marc Brooks, Community pharmacist

Prescription charges have always been a joke.. Full of anomalies .. diabetics gets theirs free, but asthmatics don't.. The people that have to pay the charge are those already paying tax and N.I Anything free at the point of sale is not valued, it's human nature, which is why so much medicine is wasted and so many appointments are not attended. Alkesh below makes a good point, but it will never happen as it's a political hot potato. That said, I don't believe these people cannot afford their prescription. They just deem it not that important to them.. The free NHS has been ingrained in our society and generally people just don't want to pay for their health... Although they don't blink at vets bills and pet food costs!, No easy answer but the whole system needs reviewing... But don't hold your breath!

ALKESH DESAI, Dispenser Manager/ Dispensing Assistant

I sympathize with those who need medicines but cannot afford to pay the charge which is exorbitant. However, I have mentioned to a lot of my customers and friends that the most equitable way would be to completely scrap the current prescription tax/charge for a flat fee per item of £1.00 regardless of who it is for. When one gets something for nothing there is little or no value and waste will not be an issue because it is "free". Once you attach a monetary value to the medication as I have suggested, everyone will value it and not waste it. This would cut a lot of waste and save doctors and pharmacists time policing whether the patient has a valid exemption. Not forgetting the revenue generated for the NHS . I am sure that individuals can afford this nominal amount.

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