The cost of prescriptions has risen by 25p to £7.65. The price of a prepaid prescription payment certificate (valid for three months) and also the price of an annual prepaid prescription payment certificate will remain the same. However, free prescriptions were introduced in Wales in 2007, Northern Ireland in 2010 and Scotland in 2011.
Many experts and healthcare professionals have stated that the current system in England is unfair. There is a real concern in the current financial climate that some people will neglect their health and even avoid coming to see their doctor in view of the costs of prescriptions. Compliance with some medications may be a real issue.
However, the government says abolishing prescription charges in England would leave the NHS £450m short each year. They have commented that this amount of money is equivalent to the salary costs of 18,000 nurses, or 15,000 midwives, or 3,500 hospital consultants.
I am unsure how this price rise will affect my patients. Although an extra 25p does not seem much; it will certainly add up and potentially make a difference when I prescribe several medicines at the same time. It may also lead to some patients being reluctant to return to the surgery when their first prescription has not improved their symptoms, for example a patient with eczema that worsened or even became infected.
It also does not seem fair that we are the only country in the UK who charges patients for their prescriptions!