Prescription Charges Coalition

Immunodeficiency UK is working with 40 other organisations to campaign for an end to unfair prescription charges for people with primary immunodeficiencies and others  affected by long-term medical conditions living in England.

Prescription charges are currently free in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland  but costs have now risen to £9.60 per item in England from April 2021.

Immunodeficiency UK believes there should be a fair and consistent system for prescription charges throughout the UK.

Responding to the increase in prescription charges in England, Morgan Vine who Co-Chairs the Prescription Charges Coalition, said: 

"This will come as a blow to people with long term conditions, who already have to deal with additional living costs, and rely on regular medication to manage their condition. Our research* showed that 1 in 3 people with long term conditions, who answered our survey, had not collected a prescription because of the expense. This can have a hugely negative impact on the person’s health, often resulting in expensive hospital treatment and days off work.

In 2018 the outdated and illogical medical exemption list for England will be 50 years old. It is unfair that some conditions are exempt from all charges, where others are required to pay for everything. It is the Government’s duty to support everyone with a long term condition to take their medication as prescribed. They must take urgent action to address this unjust situation.”

The campaign

Campaign work this year is focussing on the increase in prescription charges in England and calling for a review of the conditions that are medically exempt from paying prescription charges.

The impact of prescription charges

*The Prescription Charges Coalition's report ‘Paying the Price: Prescription Charges and Employment', released in February 2014, examined the impact of prescription charges on the working lives of people with long-term conditions in England.

Surveying over 5,000 people, the Prescription Charges Coalition found that for 4 in 10 respondents, the cost of medication was stopping them from taking their medication as prescribed. This results in poorer quality of life, worse health outcomes, additional treatment, unplanned hospital admissions, decreased productivity and increased reliance on benefits. While those on the lowest incomes are most affected, the survey shows that there is also an impact for those on higher household incomes. Younger people are also more likely not to take their medication due to the cost.

Kit Sandford, Member of Immunodeficiency UK Patient Representative Panel, says

"The annual cost of medication for a PID patient significantly exceeds the annual charge of a prescription prepayment card, however this charge is still a large cost to a young adult on modest wage or without a job. There is a temptation not to pay it, meaning you do not to take preventative drugs which ultimately leads to a larger cost to the NHS."

Our Medical Advisory Panel says

"We fully support Immunodeficiency UK's efforts within the Prescription Charges Coalition to eliminate prescription charges for people affected by primary immunodeficiencies in England. We are aware that the financial burden of prescription charges may prevent patients in financial hardship from seeking the important medical attention they need and cause them to ration their drugs, leading to increased morbidity with a total greater cost to the NHS than the economic burden of free prescriptions. Eliminating charges for chronic life-long conditions that require replacement therapies such as PIDs would remove this barrier and provide fairness of access to medicines across all the four home nations in the UK."

The Coalition's recommendations

The Coalition has made the following recommendations and are working to:

  • Extend prescription charge exemption to all people with long-term conditions.
  • The frequency and duration of prescriptions for people with stable, long-term conditions on long-term maintenance medication should be agreed between the prescriber and patient and allow for greater flexibility to prescribe for more than 28 days.
  • Information about prescription charge entitlements should be provided to people with long-term conditions at diagnosis.
  • Any further changes to welfare benefits, for example, the introduction of Universal Credit, should take into account the ability of people with long-term conditions to afford their medication, as long as prescription charges remain in place for this section of the population.

Here is some recent coverage about this campaign:

  • The Independent, 17th March 2017

  • The Express,16th March 2017

  • The Mirror, 16th March 2017

Updated April 2020