Free Meds for All

By Josh Jezard

Free Meds for All

• Charities say patients are skipping treatments because they are too expensive

• Patients in England now pay £8.60 per item prescription after a recent 20p rise

• Prescriptions are currently free to get in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

For those have long-term medical conditions should receive free prescription, says the Prescription Charges Coalition campaign group.

“Some people end up needing hospital treatment because they cannot afford their medication… conditions such as Parkinson's [should] be added to the list of specific illnesses that require free medicines.”

Zoe Oakley has polycystic kidney disease and is currently waiting for a transplant, but says the costs of her blood-pressure medication to protect her kidneys can take its toll.

She said “The morning after skipping my medication, I woke up with what can only be described as feeling like the worst hangover ever. Later in the day, my blood pressure spiked so high that I had to be taken to hospital by ambulance… I'm currently on the transplant list for a new kidney. If I get it, I'll have to pay for my own anti-rejection medication. That doesn't seem right."

Many feel that England’s medical exemptions are “unfair and “out of date” and should follow the footsteps of Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland who have scrapped prescription charges for everyone in recent years.

In England, many are dispensed free of charge, mostly to the over-60s, the under 16s, pregnant women and those on low incomes.

But 10% are paid for - and mostly by people on modest wages with long-term conditions not included on the current exemption list, according to the coalition group.

Neal Patel, from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, agrees that the current system is arbitrary and unfair. He said, "The main burden falls on those with long-term conditions such as HIV, asthma and multiple sclerosis, who have to pay for prescriptions to stay well. Prescription costs place a particular squeeze on the finances of those who are in work on modest incomes, who sometimes cannot afford prescription medicines - a price that's ultimately paid in preventable hospital admissions, wasted NHS time and avoidable sick leave."

At present, some people with life-long health conditions qualify for free prescriptions and some do not. However, campaigners say long-term conditions affecting the population have changed significantly in the past 50 years and the list no longer reflects reality.

Some have suggestion that people with long-term conditions should get free medication only when the drugs relate to that particular condition, rather than free drugs for anything that goes wrong. Then, there are some who say anyone who cannot afford to pay shouldn’t.

However, the finances must add up, and as people live longer there are more and more drugs prescribed.

Do you think free prescription would benefit people or would they abuse the system that is already struggling?

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