The launch of a single annual prepayment for hormone replacement therapy (HRT) prescriptions has been delayed by a year, which pharmacy leaders have deemed ‘disappointing.’  

The scheme, which some thought was meant to begin ‘within months’ was first announced in October 2021 and has the potential to save individuals up to £205 by enabling women to pay one charge for a 12-month supply of HRT.  

However, while speaking to the Women and Equalities Committee on 16 March as part of their inquiry into ‘Menopause and the workplace’, pharmacy minister Maria Caulfield MP said the Government would consider launching the scheme but said that it would not be in place until ‘April next year’. 

Thorrun Govind, chair of RPS in England,  said the news was ‘disappointing’ and that delaying the move would ‘drive health inequalities already experienced by women across the country’. 

‘Women experiencing menopause need support to stay well and remain in the workplace. For some, HRT prescriptions are an essential part of this but also a financial drain during a cost of living crisis. 

‘We believe everyone should have access to the medicines they need, regardless of ability to pay, and will continue to call on the Government to scrap prescription charges in England altogether,’ she said. 

Bell Ribeiro-Addy, Labour MP for Streatham, called on Ms Caulfield to explain why the scheme was taking ‘so long’ to be put in place after saying that people thought it would be implemented ‘within months or by the beginning of this year’. 

Ms Caulfield said thate ‘technical’ issues had slowed the process down. She also said the Government would have to run a consultation with the various health bodies, including the pharmacy bodies, around the ‘practicality’ of rolling it out.  

Some in the pharmacy sector had previously told The Pharmacist that the Government's new proposal could be a ‘nightmare’ for pharmacy teams if not implemented correctly

‘In the meantime, because NICE [National Institute for Health and Care Excellence] guidelines allow GPs, after an initial three-month period of being on HRT, to issue 12 months’ worth of HRT which would just involve one payment — that can happen now,’ Ms Caulfield added. 

In response, Carolyn Harris, a Labour MP for Swansea, said she was ‘really annoyed’ at the delay. 

‘What the minister [Ms Caulfield] said fills me with no hope that we are anywhere near getting HRT [at a reduced price],’ she said.  

This week, Boots UK announced it would cover the cost of Hormone Replacement Treatment (HRT) prescriptions for its team members from April