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Charge more for prescriptions in England, say Reform

Published on 19/11/13 at 09:27am
Prescribing image

Increase prescriptions to £10 and charge the same amount to see a GP if you want to help the NHS with its growing financial shortfall.

This is the advice from the think-tank Reform, which is urging patients in England to stump up more cash for NHS services to relieve pressure on taxpayers.

The report which is called “The cost of our health: the role of charging in healthcare” argues that new charges could raise nearly £3 billion per year to fund NHS services. 

Plans include raising the charge for prescriptions from £7.85 to £10.00, and also the cost of a Prescription Prepayment Certificate from £104 to £120. The certificate allows patients to make one payment per quarter or year for all prescriptions in that period.

This would raise an additional £130 million annually the report says, adding that the UK government could also charge £10 for GP and hospital visits.  

“Similar reforms in England could raise up to £1.4 billion, £1.2 billion and £200 million per year respectively,” Reform said in a statement. The think tank recommends that any reform should provide exemptions for people on low incomes, although not necessarily all pensioners.

Currently around 90% of all prescriptions in England are dispensed free of charge for the elderly, the young and those with chronic diseases.

The funding gap facing the service, estimated by NHS England to be up to £30 billion by 2020, is the reason to consider higher charges in future Reform argues. The think tank adds that new charges would “broaden the base of NHS funding, reduce its reliance on taxation and generate valuable revenue”.

The most radical reform would be to move to a French-style system. In this case only 20% of drugs would be dispensed free of charge, to people on low incomes for example.

The prescription charge itself would then drop from £7.85 to £3.00. Reform estimates that such a change could raise an additional £1.4 billion a year.

It notes that paying for GP and hospital visits could also help raise more money for weekend surgeries, but says this would likely be a hard sell. Politically it believes raising the prescription charge would be the most palatable change for the UK government.

But Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have all scrapped prescription charges, and the British Medical Association has previously said the current system is ‘unfair’ and wants them also to be scrapped in England.

The Department of Health has yet to officially responded to the report.

Ben Adams 

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