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Nearly all pharmacists have had patients decline medicines due to prescription charge

Pharmacy News

Nearly all pharmacists have had patients decline medicines due to prescription charge

The overwhelming majority of pharmacists in England have seen patients decline a medicine because they could not afford to pay prescription charges, a new survey suggests.

The survey of over 1,000 pharmacists, undertaken jointly by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society and Pharmacists’ Defence Association over 12 days in January, found that 97 per cent “had seen patients decline parts of a prescription due to cost,” and that 26 per cent encountered this regularly.

Ninety per cent of respondents had seen patients decline entire prescriptions because of the £9.65-per-item prescription charge, while nine per cent said they often see this.

Meanwhile, 35 per cent that they have seen a rise in patients walking away without collecting a prescribed medicine over the last 12 months.

Some of the most commonly cited medicines in the survey included acute medicines like antibiotics or analgesics, as well as preventative medicines like statins and oral steroids – as patients may not perceive the benefits of taking them in the same way as with drugs that treat overt symptoms.

‘Add-on’ medicines like PPIs, used to treat side effects of other medicines, were also cited, as were antidepressants.

The vast majority of pharmacists surveyed (95 per cent) said they are likely to counsel these patients on the risks associated with failure to take prescribed medicines, while 80 per cent said they invariably advise patients on the options available to lower the overall costs of prescriptions.

NHS statistics indicate that in England 95 per cent of medicines are dispensed to patients exempt from paying prescription charges. However, the PDA and RPS warned that the Government’s continued refusal to axe the charges, as has been done in the other Home Nations, is threatening some patients’ health.

RPS England chair Tase Oputu described prescription charges as an “unfair tax on health” and said they “risk widening health inequalities,” as well as creating additional bureaucracy for pharmacies.

“In a general election year, I hope that political parties can commit to properly reviewing this complex and unjust system – it is time this stealth tax was abolished,” she said.

PDA policy director Alison Jones said patients in England should have the same access as those in the rest of the UK “where the affordability of prescriptions for the patient is not a factor”.

“Our members do all they can to advise patients on NHS England schemes to reduce prescription costs, such as pre-payment, but ultimately in a cost of living crisis some patients cannot afford any price,” said Ms Jones.  

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