1st April 2016

Prescription Charges Coalition calls on Government to review criteria for prescription charges

Leading charities and health professional organisations seek review of Medical Exemption Criteria as prescription cost rises in England

The Prescription Charges Coalition are calling upon the Government to review the outdated Medical Exemption Criteria and end unfair prescription charges for people with long-term medical conditions in England.[1]

The coalition, consisting of 40 leading charity and health professional organisations, is putting pressure on the Government to review the criteria in light of the increase in the cost of prescriptions to £8.40 per item in England coming into effect today.

The criteria, which were established in 1968, allow people with certain medical conditions to get their NHS prescriptions for free.

Morgan Vine, co-chair of the Prescription Charges Coalition and Policy and Campaigns Advisor at Parkinson’s UK, says:

“The criteria that the government use to decide who pays for prescriptions, and who doesn’t, is antiquated at nearly 50 years old, and hasn’t kept pace with medical advances.

“Various conditions that people now live with for years either didn’t exist when the exemption criteria were created or had such a short life expectancy that it was not felt necessary to add them. As a result, many people of working age with long term conditions are now struggling to pay for their medication, despite earning above the threshold for low income exemption.

“In an aim to offset some of these high costs, the Government offers a pre-payment option. However many people don’t know about this and continue to pay full price for their medication. Even the pre-payment option can still be unaffordable and it does not work for those with fluctuating and unpredictable conditions.

“Alarmingly 1 in 3 people in England with a long-term condition, who pay for their prescriptions, have not collected items they needed due to the cost – cutting down their dosage and playing Russian roulette with their health. A rise in prescription charges could mean more people having to choose between their medication, or paying for other essentials like food and heating.

“We’re calling on the government to review and update the criteria to include all those with long term conditions to put an end to this unfairness”.

Some migraine sufferers told us how the cost of prescription charges has impacted on their lives:

“I know I am lucky that I am now in a position to afford it. Some time ago, when I had less money, I was having to spend a larger percentage of my income on migraine medications, the stress of which then contributed to further migraines.” Migraine sufferer

Helen Dada, Advocacy Officer at The Migraine Trust says that patients with headache and migraine should be allowed to have fair access to treatment to support them to cope with the debilitating condition. People who suffer migraine should not be forced to ration their medicines or pay more to stay well.

How you can help

For more information on the Prescription Charges Coalition please visit their website.


[1] Charges no longer apply in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

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