NHS prescription charges in England are to rise by 20 pence from £8.20 to £8.40 from 1 April 2016, the Department of Health has announced.
A statement on the UK Government’s website reads: “We have increased the prescription charge by 20 pence from £8.20 to £8.40 for each medicine or appliance dispensed. 90% of prescription items are dispensed free, and this will remain the case.
“To ensure that those with the greatest need, and who are not already exempt from the charge, are protected we have frozen the cost of the prescription prepayment certificates (PPC) for another year.
“The 3 month PPC remains at £29.10 and the cost of the annual PPC will stay at £104. Taken together, this means prescription charge income is expected to rise broadly in line with inflation.”
The statement continues: “The range of NHS optical vouchers available to children, people on low incomes and individuals with complex sight problems are also being increased in value.
“In order to continue to provide help with the cost of spectacles and contact lenses, optical voucher values will rise by an overall 1%.”
Responding to the announcement, the Prescription Charges Coalition, a coalition of nearly 40 organisations campaigning to end unfair prescription charges, said: “The continued rise in the charge for prescriptions forms a barrier year on year for working age people who rely on regular medication to manage long-term conditions.
“The charge applies to each item on the prescription, so if you have to take a number of medicines, as many with long-term conditions do, the cost can quickly mount up. Research shows that 1 in 3 of those with long-term conditions have not collected a prescription because of the cost. This can lead to poorer health, expensive hospital admissions and affect productivity at work.
They added: “We welcome the fact that the pre-payment certificate cost has been frozen; however many people with fluctuating and long term conditions have told us that this cost can still be prohibitive.
“The Prescription Charges Coalition is pressing for people with long-term conditions in England to be exempt from prescription charges. They are disproportionately affected due to their need for ongoing medication, yet this is vital to keep them well and to prevent potentially life-threatening complications.
“Medicines are prescribed for a reason and a patient’s ability to pay should not be part of the equation. Those living in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland no longer have to pay as prescription charges have been abolished.
“The list of those exempt from paying for their medicines due to medical conditions has barely changed in England since 1968, leaving it outdated, illogical and unfair. It is now well past its sell-by date. During this time, new illnesses and treatments have been discovered and diseases which were then fatal are now lived with for decades.”