The NHS prescription charge will rise by 20p to £9.35 per item in England from 1 April 2021, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) announced yesterday (24 February).

It comes after amendments to the National Health Service (Charges for Drugs and Appliances Regulations) were laid before parliament.

The £9.35 charge will apply to each medicine or appliance dispensed, while the price of a three-month prescription prepayment certificate (PPC) will also increase from £29.65 to £30.25, and a 12-month PPC will increase from £105.90 to £108.10.

Simon Dukes, PSNC’s chief executive, said that the latest increase serves as a reminder that the Government expects pharmacy teams to be ‘not only clinicians but also tax collectors’.

‘After the year that pharmacy teams have all experienced, the continued use of front-line healthcare staff for this purpose is unwelcome and inappropriate,’ he said.

He added: ‘It is ironic that the Exchequer is keen to use the high street pharmacy network to collect its prescription tax, yet unwilling to reimburse them their Covid-related costs in keeping pharmacy doors open in order to dispense the medicines in the first place.

‘The Government urgently needs to find an alternative solution to the use of community pharmacy for this purpose.’

Health inequalities

Claire Anderson, chair of the English Pharmacy Board (RPS), said the increase was 'totally unacceptable'.

She said: 'The increase in cost will only add to the highly concerning levels of health inequalities in this country and no-one should be put in a position where they have to go without their medicines because they can’t afford to pay.

'By not taking their medicines, people can subsequently become unwell and as a result, place more pressure on our health service through hospital admissions. In this current climate, we need to be doing everything we can to ease this pressure and give patients access to their regular medicines without difficulty.'

She added: 'As a member of the Prescription Charges Coalition, we’ll continue to campaign against charges for prescriptions in England, which are free in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. There must be no barrier between a patient and lifesaving medicines.'

‘False economy’

Laura Cockram, chair of the Prescription Charges Coalition and head of policy and campaigns at Parkinson’s UK, said it was ‘incredibly disappointing’ that people with long-term conditions continue to be ‘penalised by an outdated prescription charges system’.

‘By continuing to drive up the cost of prescriptions, the Government is ignoring clear evidence that the charge is a false economy that leaves people unable to afford vital medication, which can then place increased pressure on the NHS with emergency hospital admissions,’ she said.

‘No-one should be forced to choose between eating or heating their home and paying for vital medication.’

Ms Cockram added: ‘The Government must urgently review the widely outdated exemption list which was created when some conditions, like HIV, didn't even exist. It needs to take the time to do this rather than just ploughing on with the price increase so people with long-term conditions like Parkinson’s, asthma and MS, are no longer penalised for having the ‘wrong condition’.’