The UK Sickle Cell Society has joined the Prescription Charges Coalition, a group of patient support organisations campaigning for the abolition of all prescription charges. This affects every single person in the sickle cell community – lets all get behind this campaign, sign the petition and write to your MP at: http://www.prescriptionchargescoalition.org.uk
Most patients with sickle cell take folic acid and penicillin every day together with a variety of painkillers when they have a crisis, say a combination of paracetamol, ibuprofen and dihydrocodeine. That’s five separate prescription items, excluding additional medication for any other problems. These days GPs are encouraged to only give prescriptions for 28 days to discourage waste, so conceivably that will mean a repeat prescription for five items every month. At the current coast of £8.05 per item that amounts to £40.25 a month or £483 a year.
This makes a mockery of one of the founding principles of the NHS, that health care should be “free at the point of need” and England remains the only one of the UK nations where this iniquitous system still applies. Charging for essential medications in this way is a powerful disincentive to successful self management, forces people to make choices between health care and other priorities and ultimately costs the NHS more money, because long term conditions are poorly managed, requiring more outpatient and GP appointments and more frequent admissions to hospital. It certainly does not put the patient at the centre of the health care process.
Exemptions from prescription charges were set in 1968 but have changed little since then – they are outdated, arbitrary and inequitable. You can save money via Prescription Prepayment Certificates or by using the NHS Low Income Scheme, but these are poorly publicised and difficult to access and still may involve a significant upfront payment, which for many is unaffordable.
The Prescription Charges Coalition present some damning data in their 2014 report. The headline figure being that 37% of patients, with a long term condition, do not take their medication as prescribed because of the cost of prescriptions.
This clearly affects their health, with a big proportion having a significant amount of time off work as a result. Predictably, this affects the poorest chronically ill patients the most; 44% of those in the lowest income bracket had not taken their medication as prescribed, compared with only 17% in the highest income bracket.
This unfair tax, penalising the sickest and poorest in society must be abolished – do something today!