Major announcement made on NHS prescription charges in England

The Government has announced it is freezing NHS prescription charges in England for the first time in 12 years to help with the cost of living crisis.

Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said the freeze will “help ease some of these pressures and put money back in people’s pockets.”

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People in England who pay prescription charges will save £17 million overall, according to the government.

While campaigners welcome the move, they pointed out that 90% of prescriptions are already free of charge.

A single mum-of-two also told the BBC that the price freeze "won’t go far" because "everything is going up in price and I’m not able to afford everything I used to be, including my prescription".

How much will prescriptions cost under the freeze?

This year the price of prescriptions will remain the same to help ease cost of living pressures and ensure prescription medication remains accessible - in a move not seen for over a decade.

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Charges for single prescriptions will remain at £9.35 until next year.

The cost of a single prescription in England has risen from £7.65 in 2012-13 to £9.35 in 2021-22, including an increase of 20p from 2020-21.

The freeze also applies to the £30.25 for a three month prescription prepayment certificate (PPC), as well as the 12-month charge, which can be paid in instalments, which will stay at £108.10.

The prescription freeze will also apply to NHS wigs and fabric supports.

These prices will remain the same:

Surgical brassiere £30.70

Abdominal or spinal support £46.30

Stock modacrylic wig £75.70

Partial human hair wig £200.50

Full bespoke human hair wig £293.20

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Who is eligible for free prescriptions?

Campaigners have welcomed the move but pointed out that 90% of prescriptions are already free of charge.

People eligible for free prescriptions include those on state benefits, pregnant women and new mothers, people with specified medical conditions or disabilities, the over-60s and under-16s.

Prescriptions are already free for everyone in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

What has the government said?

In March the government indicated that prescription charges in England would not be increased this year, and the announcement on Sunday (15 May) confirms this move.

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The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said the freeze meant prescription charges would not increase until at least April 2023.

Government said the move would save patients who pay prescription charges in England £17 million.

Mr Javid said: “The rise in the cost of living has been unavoidable as we face global challenges and the repercussions of Putin’s illegal war in Ukraine.

“Whilst we can’t completely prevent these rises, where we can help - we absolutely will.”

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The government also recently proposed increasing the age for free prescriptions from 60 to be in line with the stage pension age - 66 for men and women.

But the DHSC said no decisions have been made on this.

How have people reacted to the prescription change?

Faith Angwet, a single mother of two, told the BBC that she had to choose between paying for prescriptions to treat her high blood pressure, or use that money to feed her children.

She said the price freeze "won’t go far" because "it’s not necessarily the outgoings affecting me, everything is going up in price and I’m not able to afford everything I used to be, including my prescription".

Meanwhile Claire Anderson, of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, said people who do not qualify for free prescriptions because of various reasons from income and age, have to make decisions about what medicines they need.

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She told the BBC: "Those medicines are prescribed for a reason because that patient needs that treatment.”

Laura Cockram, chairwoman of the Prescription Charges Coalition, who welcomed the freeze, said the government should review the list of those who qualified for free prescriptions.

She said the prescription exemption charge list was put together more than 50 years ago, when conditions like HIV "didn’t even exist" and at a time there "weren’t life saving treatments for things like asthma, Parkinson’s and MS".

What is the government doing to ease the cost of living?

The government has confirmed measures worth over £22 billion in 2022-23 to help with the cost of energy bills and to ensure people keep more of their money.

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In July the threshold at which people start to pay National Insurance will rise to £12,570, providing a £330 a year tax cut to 30 million workers.

The National Living Wage has risen to £9.50 per hour – an extra £1,000 a year for a full-time worker.

Taxes have also been cut for the lowest paid workers on Universal Credit.

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