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Wrong Choices?

by Kazeem Olalekan MRPharmS

Last April we posted a blog entitled “NHS choices” where we highlighted the choices facing patients in the NHS with respect to increasing prescription charges. The choice then was stark:

…is it inconceivable that patients will re-locate to another place within the UK where the choices made by the local NHS is aligned to the expectations of the patient?

This choice is because Wales, Northern Island and Scotland have either abolished or reduced the prescription charges. In contrast, England has again increased the prescription charge from £7.40 to £7.65 (an increase of 25p – over 3% rise). Can we honestly say that health related migration to different devolved institutions in the UK is what we need in the NHS? If according to Graham Philips of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (in an interview on Sky News), patients are choosing whether or not to take their medication because of cost, then these are clearly wrong choices.

 

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society has issued 5 really good recession busting tips for prescription medicines which every patient should be aware of. The tip has 3 main components:

Check that you are exempt – look at the back of the prescription for exemption categories
Ask your pharmacist or their team for opportunities to make savings by switching to cheaper over-the-counter alternatives and about other money saving strategies
Consider a pre-payment certificate (the cost of this hasn’t gone up – thank goodness). A 3-month certificate will cost £29.10 and will benefit anyone needing 4 or more prescription items in that time. Likewise a 12-month version costs £104 and will benefit anyone needing more than 14 items in a year

We are in a tough recession and as things get better (which it will), we really need to look at more innovative ways to fund “the equivalent of nearly 18,000 nurses or 15,000 midwives.” The choice of whether or not to take medication because of cost is not only false but wrong. According to Graham Phillips:

This is a kind of tax on the sick…my starting point will be that we should abolish charges like they’ve done in England (Scotland) and Wales and fund it in a different way…

It is very difficult to argue against that view.

Above how many prescription item do you need to be prescribed in a year to save money through the pre-payment certificate scheme?

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(More information on the prescription pre-payment scheme is available on the NHS Business Services Authority website)

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