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What we have to say about your health and well being
26
Jan 2022
Consultation on NHS prescription charges

NHS prescriptions in England are not free for everyone (unlike Scotland, Wales & Northern Ireland) – unless exempt there is a charge of £9.35 for most items, although some medications & appliances attract different charges. Individuals can be exempt on grounds of age (under 16, under 18 in full time education and over 60 years old), women who are pregnant or new mothers, those with certain medical conditions or those on specific low-income benefits. Of the 1.1 billion prescription items dispensed in 2018, almost 90% were reportedly free of charge.

There is however, a possibility that changes are coming. To very little public fanfare, the government launched a consultation for 9 weeks in the run up to September 2021 around the possibility of increasing the upper age limit for free NHS prescriptions, to bring in line with state pension age. This would mean prescriptions would not be free until age 66. Missed this? Not surprising, as it wasn’t widely advertised and many health care professionals missed the consultation too. If you want to see details of the consultation, the web link is https://bit.ly/3u5YTV9 (please copy & paste). The consultation has closed, though no findings have been released from the UK government yet. Obviously, some people who would be affected are already exempt from charges because of medical conditions or state benefits. Others may be able to claim help with health costs due to low incomes. But still more would be required to pay for their medication.

The government site the existence of Prepayment Certificates as a way to save money if prescribed multiple medications on a regular basis (currently £30.25 for 3 months, or £108.10 for 12 months, the latter available via a monthly direct debit of £10.81 over 10 months). But many may still feel the pinch, especially with a planned rise to National Insurance contributions and rising general cost of living. If you feel strongly on this matter, since the consultation is closed please contact your MP as a means to raise the profile of this issue.

As always, please remember prescription charges are not related to the cost of the medicine issued – some items are well over £100 each but still charged at £9.35 (as are relatively cheap medicines only costing a few pounds). Neither are they a payment to your pharmacy – the NHS Business Services Authority takes every single payment off each pharmacy in full every month. As a final word on prepayment certificates – these can be well worth the cost even if you only get one item every 28 days. Thirteen prescriptions over a calendar year would cost £121.55 – saving £13.45 a year, which isn’t much but it’s better in your pocket!

The prepayment would also cover any other medicines issued on an NHS prescription while the certificate is valid, for example antibiotics from an NHS dentist, acute pain relief from your GP or something from an NHS consultant at a hospital appointment. So if you get regular NHS items in England and have to pay for your prescriptions, please look at prepayment details here: https://www.nhsbsa.nhs.uk/help-nhs-prescription-costs/prescription-prepayment-certificates-ppcs

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