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.