The PDA (Pharmacists’ Defence Association) has joined the Prescription Charges Coalition, a group of 49 organisations calling on the Westminster Government to scrap prescription charges for people with long-term medical conditions in England.

The coalition is made up primarily of patient organisations representing those who require medicines to be prescribed because of their long-term medical conditions. As the largest pharmacist membership organisation with over 31,000 members, and the only independent trade union exclusively for pharmacists in the UK, the PDA can bring the perspective of pharmacists to this campaign.

Our members across the UK are critically concerned when a patient has to decline to have some or all of their medicines dispensed because they cannot afford the prescription charge. We know that others may need to sacrifice other essentials in order to prioritise their medicines. This is a terrible situation for these people to be in,” says Paul Day, Director of the PDA.

While patients in England may not be able to afford their prescriptions, the consequences of individuals not receiving their prescribed medicines can increase costs for the NHS because their health may deteriorate as a result.

For example, research published in May 2018 by the York Health Economics Consortium (YHEC) found that abolishing prescription charges for people with just two of the long-term conditions represented in the coalition – Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis) and Parkinson’s – would save the NHS over £20 million a year.

Examples reported by pharmacists include patients refusing to take prescriptions for stomach protection such as Omeprazole or Lansoprazole, when prescribed in conjunction with strong anti-inflammatory tablets such as Naproxen, lead to an increased risk of developing a stomach ulcer.

There have also been reports of patients with asthma, a long-term respiratory condition, refusing steroid inhalers due to cost and rationing their reliever inhalers instead, despite the advice of the pharmacist. This has a considerable effect on their long-term health.

Laura Cockram, Head of Policy and Campaigning at Parkinson’s UK, who Chair the coalition welcomed the PDA by saying: “Patients understand that pharmacists are following government policy by charging for their prescriptions. It’s great to have the PDA on board with the campaign so we can make the case to government that the charge is a false economy and a barrier to keeping people well.”

The PDA has accompanied the announcement that they are supporting the campaign with a survey asking pharmacists about their experience of patients partially or fully declining to have prescriptions dispensed because of the cost. Pharmacists can learn more and complete the survey at: www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/prescriptioncharges

Mr Day concluded: “We are a UK-wide organisation, but our survey is not being sent to our members in the other nations because we know that this is only an issue in England.  We support the campaign to level up the treatment of these patients with how they would be treated in the rest of the UK.  

For more information about the PDA, visit: www.the-pda.org