NHS prescription charges to rise in April, government announces

Health Correspondent Martin Stew reports on how the prescription price hike will help community pharmacies.

Words by Lottie Kilraine, Multimedia Producer

NHS prescription charges in England are set to rise next month in a major change announced by the government this week.

Prescription charges were frozen at £9.35 per item last April to help patients cope with the cost of living crisis.

But now the Department of Health and Social Care said it will apply an inflation rate of 3.21%.

England is the only country in the UK that still charges for prescription medicines. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland scrapped the charges more than a decade ago.

What are the new charges?

From April 1 patients in England will need to pay 30p more to collect their prescription.

  • Single prescription charge: £9.65

  • Three-month Prescription Prepayment Certificate (PPC): £31.25

  • 12-month PPC: £111.60

  • The recently introduced HRT PPC: £19.30

  • Surgical bra: £31.70

  • Abdominal or spinal support: £47.80

  • Stock modacrylic wig: £78.15

  • Partial human hair wig: £207.00

  • Full bespoke human hair wig: £302.70

Some drugs, like contraception, are usually free.

Who is eligible for free prescriptions?

Currently, free prescriptions are available for the following people:

  • People aged 60 or over

  • Those aged under 16

  • 16 to 18 year olds and those in full-time education

  • Anyone who is pregnant or has had a baby in the previous 12 months, and has a valid maternity exemption certificate (MatEx)

  • Anyone with a specified medical condition and has a valid medical exemption certificate (MedEx)

  • Someone with a continuing physical disability that prevents them going out without help from another person, and has a valid medical exemption certificate (MedEx)

  • Anyone who holds a valid war pension exemption certificate and the prescription is for an accepted disability

  • NHS inpatients

  • If you or your partner (including civil partner) receive, or you're under the age of 20 and the dependant of someone receiving:- Income Support- Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance- Pension Credit Guarantee Credit - Universal Credit and meet the criteria

What has been the reaction from the opposition?

On Friday, Labour MP Tonia Antoniazzi described the price rise as "really disappointing".

The shadow minister for Northern Ireland and shadow Whip tweeted: "DHSC in England have decided to prioritise generating revenue over preventing ill-health. Prescriptions should be free for all."

Earlier this week, calls to scrap prescription charges for all women in England needing hormone replacement therapy (HRT) were rejected by the government.

Health minister Maria Caulfield highlighted moves from April 1 to allow women prescribed HRT as part of menopause treatment to access a year’s worth of treatment for just under £20.

Officials estimate the change will benefit around 400,000 women and allow them to access a list of HRT prescription items, including patches and tablets.

But the SNP urged the UK government to go further.

The party’s equalities spokeswoman Kirsten Oswald told the Commons on Tuesday: “While these cost reductions are welcome, England is still the only UK nation not to offer free prescriptions.

“Instead the UK government is penalising those who are experiencing menopause who need these medications to improve their symptoms."

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