Major review of NHS prescription charges urgently needed, says The King's Fund

A fundamental review of NHS prescription charges is urgently needed as the current system is outdated, illogical and penalises poorer patients, says The King's Fund.

Speaking in response to a Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain report based on research by The King's Fund senior fellow Anthony Harrison, The King's Fund chief executive Niall Dickson said:

'We have a highly complex and irrational charging system for prescription drugs which is plagued by inconsistencies and unfairness.

'We strongly support calls for a major review of prescription charges - it is long overdue. But this would need to be approached in a considered manner and the consequences for patients and the costs to the public would need to be carefully analysed.

'Any review would need to look at the list of exempt medical conditions, which still hasn't been updated since its inception in 1968. In particular, there is no justification for sufferers of some chronic medical conditions that need long-term medication, such as adults with cancer, asthma, multiple sclerosis or anyone with a mental health problem, to not be exempt from prescription charges. Often, these are the kinds of people that cannot afford the medicines they need and this can lead to further problems down the line in terms of unplanned hospital admissions.'

Notes to editors: 

1. For further information or interviews, please contact The King's Fund media and public relations office on 020 7307 2585.

2. The Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain report, Prescription charges: should they be abolished? was published on Wednesday, 12 January 2005. It is available from the Society's website at www.rpsgb.org/policy . For further information, please contact Karen Turnham on 020 7572 2218 or email karen.turnham@rpsgb.org.

3. The King's Fund is an independent charitable foundation working for better health, especially in London. We carry out research, policy analysis and development activities, working on our own, in partnerships, and through grants. We are a major resource to people working in health, offering leadership and education courses; seminars and workshops; publications; information and library services; and conference and meeting facilities.