Calls for and end to 'outdated' prescription charges

England is the only country in the UK which still imposes them

Health Reporter

NHS prescription charges are “iniquitous”, “outdated” and should be scrapped, experts at a leading journal have said.

England is the only country in the UK which still imposes charges for prescriptions, which often significantly exceed the actual cost of the drug.

While the elderly, pregnant, some on a low income and those with certain long-term health conditions are exempted from prescription charges, 80 per cent of 18 to 59-year-olds still pay the £8.05 fees.

However, an editorial in the leading pharmaceuticals journal Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin, published today, argues that the charge is a “poorly conceived, manifestly unfair tax.”

Questioning why patients in England should be subject to an additional tax when they have already paid for the NHS through general taxation, the authors point out that the charge has been abolished in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. In England the charges are expected to rise over the next two years. 

The charge of £8.05 is in “stark comparison” with the price of many commonly prescribed medicines that are off patent and therefore legally allowed to be sold by more than one company, driving down prices. Aspirin now costs only 74 pence for 28 75mg pill, while some stains cost only £1.26 for 28 20mg pills.

Prescription charges have always been controversial. Their introduction in 1951 was viewed by many as going against the founding ideals of the NHS, and contributed to the resignation of the health minister and NHS founder Aneurin Bevan.

The authors of the Drugs and Therapeutics editorial argue that the bureaucracy involved in managing prescription fee exemptions, and the process by which hospitals refer outpatients back to their GP for a prescription, make the system inefficient and costly.

“Such charges are clearly outdated and iniquitous, and we believe it is time that politicians showed their commitment to a patient-centred NHS and abolish prescription charges in England,” they write.

However, it is unlikely the Government will drop the charges, given the current financial pressure on the NHS. The charges were abolished by the devolved health systems in Wales in 2007, in Northern Ireland in 2010 and in Scotland in 2011.

A Department of Health spokesperson said: “Demands on the NHS are rising, with spending on medicines alone almost doubling since 2000 - so prescription charges remain an important source of revenue for the NHS in England. In increasing the single charge for the next two years, we are ensuring that costs are kept as low as possible and that patients with long term conditions are protected.”

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

    £28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

    Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

    £16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

    Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

    £16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

    Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

    £17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

    Day In a Page

    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
    'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

    'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

    British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
    Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

    Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

    Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
    14 best kids' hoodies

    14 best kids' hoodies

    Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

    The acceptable face of the Emirates

    Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk