The NHS prescription charge in England will increase to £9.90 per item as of next month, it has been announced.

The 25p increase has been condemned by pharmacy leaders who are concerned about the impact on patients, especially amid the cost-of-living crisis.

Amendments to the National Health Service (Charges for Drugs and Appliances) Regulations have been laid before parliament, which introduces changes to the NHS prescription charge and prescription prepayment certificates (PPCs).

Under the changes, as of 1 May 2024, the NHS prescription charge will rise from £9.65 to £9.90 per prescription item.

In addition, the cost of a three-month PPC will become £32.05 (up 80p), while a 12-month PPC will increase to £114.50 (up £2.90).

The HRT PPC, which is separate, will also increase by 50p to £19.80.

Janet Morrison, chief executive of Community Pharmacy England, said: ‘Yet again community pharmacies must be the bearers of bad news as the government decides to raise the NHS prescription charge.

‘As the cost of living continues to put strain on the most vulnerable in society, many patients will have to make unbearable decisions about which medicines they can afford to pay for.’

She said the negotiator remained ‘opposed to the charge’ which she described as a ‘a tax on the vulnerable and one which forces pharmacy teams to act as tax collectors on top of the intolerable wider pressures that community pharmacy is facing’.

As part of the NHS Terms of Service, pharmacies are required to have an up-to-date notice about the NHS prescription charge displayed in the prescription reception area.

Prescriptions charges do not apply in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.

Chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) in England Tase Oputu said: ‘Amid an ongoing cost of living crisis, the rise in prescription charges in England will hit working people on low incomes the hardest.

‘Every day pharmacists are asked by patients who are unable to afford all the items their prescription which ones they could “do without”.

‘Patients shouldn’t have to make choices which involve rationing their medicines.

‘No one should face a financial barrier to getting medicines which a health professional has prescribed as necessary.’

A recent survey of pharmacists in England found that 97% had encountered patients foregoing some of the medicines on a prescription due to cost, and as many as 90% reported cases where patients declined all the medicines.

Nick Kaye, chair of the National Pharmacy Association, described the prescription charge rise as ‘a shameful neglect of working people on low fixed incomes’.

‘Many people already choose not to collect some or all their prescription medicines because of cost, with potentially dire health consequences,’ he added.

‘As pharmacists, we understand the healing power of medicines. So naturally we oppose arbitrary barriers to people getting the medicines they need.’

Meanwhile, a Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: ‘Almost nine in 10 items are available for free on the NHS in England and we provide a wide range of support to ensure everyone who needs a prescription can afford it.

‘Where charges are in place, it is important prices are regularly updated to ensure the NHS maintains a sustainable business model and can continue to deliver excellent patient care.’