Almost nine in ten community pharmacists in England say they have patients who sometimes go without prescription medicines because they cannot afford the prescription charge levied by the government.
Sixty-eight per cent of pharmacists in a National Pharmacy Association (NPA) survey, conducted via email in June 2022, said this has become more frequent in the past year – suggesting that the rising cost of living could be leading more people to miss out on vital medicines.
While prescription charge does not apply in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, in England an NHS patients needs to pay £9.35 per item. For patients who need multiples medicines the cost could be exponential and virtually unaffordable amid rising inflation and higher cost of living.
The survey found that 89 per cent of pharmacies in England have patients who sometimes go without prescription medicines due to cost.
For most pharmacists (74 per cent) this happens one to five times a week. Fifteen per cent said they see such patients from six to 20 times a week.
Among the most commonly reported medicines not taken due to the prescription charge, according to the survey, are antibiotics, painkillers, asthma inhalers, blood pressure medication and antidepressants.
NPA vice-chair, Nick 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.”