Free prescriptions: Calls to scrap NHS charges amid cost of living crisis | Personal Finance | Finance

Currently, those who live in England pay £9.35 per item when it comes to prescription charges on the NHS. Various groups of people are entitled to free prescriptions if they meet certain eligibility criteria. There are growing calls for the Government to expand said criteria to mitigate the pressure being placed on households as bills continue to go up.

A recent survey by the National Pharmacy Association revealed that nearly nine in ten pharmacists in England found they have patients who often go without prescription medicines because they cannot afford the charge.

Some 68 percent of pharmacists admitted that this has become more frequent in the past year in light of the cost of living increase.

Furthermore, 89 percent of pharmacies in England have patients who sometimes go without prescription medicines due to price.

Around 74 percent of pharmacists polled admitted that this happens one to five times a week.

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Among the most commonly reported medicines not taken due to the prescription charge are antibiotics, painkillers, asthma inhalers, blood pressure medication and antidepressants.

Prescription holders are currently dealing with the cost of living crisis which is putting significant pressure on the most vulnerable.

As it stands, the UK’s inflation Consumer Price Index (CPI) rate of inflation is at 10.1 percent and is expected to remain high for the time being.

On top of this, average energy bills are expected to rise by 27 percent from this month despite support through the Government’s price guarantee.


With these financial pressures, campaigners are calling for free prescriptions to be eligible for all in England to mitigate this rise in the cost of living.

Nick Kaye, the National Pharmacy Association vice chair, shared his concerns about the cost of prescription charges during the cost of living crisis.

Mr Kaye said: “People should not be denied access to prescription medicines on the basis of their ability to pay.

“For pharmacists, processing prescription charges is a task which adds workload but has no patient benefit.

“We would like to see the prescription levy reformed or scrapped altogether, to remove this barrier to treatment.”

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Who is eligible for free prescriptions?

In England, those over the age of 60 or under 16 are able to claim the freebie benefit. Those between the ages of 16 and 18 can get free prescriptions if they are in higher education.

It should be noted that residents in Scotland and Wales are able to claim the support no matter what age they are.

Anyone who has a qualifying medical condition can pick up a certificate which offers people free prescriptions.

This is commonly known as a medical exemption certificate, or a MedEx, which can save people a great deal money on their prescriptions.

Among the conditions that qualify someone for a medical exemption certificate include:

  • Cancer
  • A permanent fistula which needs continuous surgical dressing or an appliance
  • A form of hypoadrenalism which requires specific substitution therapy
  • Diabetes insipidus or other forms of hypopituitarism
  • Diabetes mellitus, except where treatment is by diet alone
  • Hypoparathyroidism
  • Myasthenia gravis
  • Myxoedema
  • Epilepsy requiring continuous anticonvulsive therapy.