The price of NHS prescriptions in England will rise by 20p to £8.60 at the start of next month, it has been announced.
Health Minister Philip Dunne said the price hike, which takes place on 1 April, was broadly in line with inflation – but Labour called the increase “disappointing”.
The price of dental care is also set to increase as part of a two-year settlement announced last year.
Mr Dunne said patients currently exempt from prescription charges would continue to receive free medication.
This includes people with conditions including cancer, epilepsy and diabetes, as well as pregnant women, children under 16 and the elderly.
Prescriptions remain free in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
“It is disappointing to see the Government increasing prescription charges. While 20p may not seem a lot it will impact on those people who are already struggling with the rising cost of living,” said Julie Cooper, Labour spokesperson for health.
Everyone the Government blames for the NHS crisis – except themselves
Everyone the Government blames for the NHS crisis – except themselves
1/6 The elderly
“We acknowledge that there are pressures on the health service, there are always extra pressures on the NHS in the winter, but we have the added pressures of the ageing population and the growing complex needs of the population,” Theresa May has said. Waits of over 12 hours in A&E among elderly people have more than doubled in two years, according to figures from NHS Digital.
2/6 Patients going to A&E instead of seeing their GPs
Jeremy Hunt has called for a “honest discussion with the public about the purpose of A&E departments”, saying that around a third of A&E patients were in hospital unnecessarily. Mr Hunt told Radio 4’s Today programme the NHS now had more doctors, nurses and funding than ever, but explained what he called “very serious problems at some hospitals” by suggesting pressures were increasing in part because people are going to A&Es when they should not. He urged patients to visit their GP for non-emergency illnesses, outlined plans to release time for family doctors to support urgent care work, and said the NHS will soon be able to deliver seven-day access to a GP from 8am to 8pm. But doctors struggling amid a GP recruitment crisis said Mr Hunt’s plans were unrealistic and demanded the Government commit to investing in all areas of the overstretched health service.
3/6 Simon Stevens, head of NHS England
Reports that “key members” of Ms May’s team used internal meetings to accuse Simon Stevens, head of NHS England, of being unenthusiastic and unresponsive have been rejected by Downing Street. Mr Stevens had allegedly rejected claims made by Ms May that the NHS had been given more funding than required.
4/6 Previous health policy, not funding
In an interview with Sky News’s Sophy Ridge, Ms May acknowledged the NHS faced pressures but said it was a problem that had been “ducked by government over the years”. She refuted the claim that hospitals were tackling a “humanitarian crisis” and said health funding was at record levels. “We asked the NHS a while back to set out what it needed over the next five years in terms of its plan for the future and the funding that it would need,” said the Prime Minister. “They did that, we gave them that funding, in fact we gave them more funding than they required… Funding is now at record levels for the NHS, more money has been going in.” But doctors accused Ms May of being “in denial” about how the lack of additional funding provided for health and social care were behind a spiralling crisis in NHS hospitals.
5/6 Target to treat all A&E patients within four hours
Mr Hunt was accused of watering down the flagship target to treat all A&E patients within four hours. The Health Secretary told MPs the promise – introduced by Tony Blair’s government in 2000 – should only be for “those who actually need it”. Amid jeers in the Commons, Mr Hunt said only four other countries pledged to treat all patients within a similar timeframe and all had “less stringent” rules. But Ms May has now said the Government will stand by the four-hour target for A&E, which says 95 per cent of patients must be dealt with within that time frame.
6/6 No one
Mr Hunt was accused of “hiding” from the public eye following news of the Red Cross’s comments and didn’t make an official statement for two days. He was also filmed refusing to answer questions from journalists who pursued him down the street yesterday to ask whether he planned to scrap the four-hour A&E waiting time target. Sky News reporter Beth Rigby pressed the Health Secretary on his position on the matter, saying “the public will want to know, Mr Hunt”. “Sorry Beth, I’ve answered questions about this already,” replied Mr Hunt. “But you didn’t answer questions on this. You said it was over-interpreted in the House of Commons and you didn’t want to water it down. Is that what you’re saying?” said Ms Rigby. “It’s very difficult, because how are we going to explain to the public what your intention is, when you change your position and then won’t answer the question, Mr Hunt”. But the Health Secretary maintained his silence until he reached his car and got in.
“The rise in prescription charges is a reflection of this Government's financial mismanagement of the National Health Service,” she said.
“At a time when the cost of living continues to rise the Government ought to be doing much more to help people with the cost of healthcare.”
Mr Dunne said the cost of prescription payment certificates, which make it cheaper to buy more than three prescribed medicines within a specified time period, would be frozen for the next year.
This is to “ensure that those with the greatest need, including patients with long-term conditions, are protected,” he told MPs.
The certificates will continue to cost £29.10 for three months and £104 for a year for unlimited prescriptions in that time frame.
But Conn O’Neill, co-chair of the Prescription Charges Coalition and policy and public affairs manager at the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society, said more than £100 a year was “still too much”.
“Every time the prescription charge goes up, more people with long-term health conditions find themselves unable to pay for their vital medications,” he said in a statement.
“I already hear from people with rheumatoid arthritis and other conditions of the difficult choices they make when confronted with these charges such as whether to take their pills or put dinner on the table for their children.
“The continued cost freeze for the pre-payment certificate is welcome but not enough, for those who are just about managing, £100+ a year is still too much”.
In April, the lowest-cost ‘band one’ course of dental treatment and urgent treatment will increase by 90p from £19.70 to £20.60.
For band two treatment, the price will increase by £2.40 from £53.90 to £56.30 and for band three treatments, a £10.60 increase will see the price rise from £233.70 to £244.30.
“The maximum band three charge is for the approximately 5 per cent of treatments that include items such as crowns or bridges,” Mr Dunne said.
Charges for wigs and fabric supports will rise in line with inflation, he added.Reuse content