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In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, prescription charges have been abolished entirely, meaning no-one in those countries has to pay for their prescriptions.
In England, despite Government pledges to abolish prescription charges for all long-term conditions, many people with cystic fibrosis still have to pay for their prescriptions.
Why do people with CF in England have to pay prescription charges?
People with certain medical conditions are exempt from paying prescription charges. However, the list of exempt conditions does not include cystic fibrosis. This is because the exempt list was drawn up 50 years ago, in 1968, when most children with CF did not live into adulthood. Fortunately, the outlook for people with CF has improved markedly since then and most people with the condition live into adulthood, although still with a reduced life expectancy compared with the population as a whole. However, the list of exempt conditions has not been properly revised since 1968 and therefore does not take account of this.
Many people with CF have to pay for all of their prescriptions unless they develop diabetes, a complication of cystic fibrosis that affects approximately 30% of people with CF and which is included on the exempt list.
Why could I be exempt from prescription charges?
People over 60 or under 16 years of age are exempt from prescription charges. People aged 16-18 and in full time education are also exempt for the charges but you may need to show proof that you are in full time education.
In England, there are some reasons that you might be entitled to get prescriptions free of charge:
- If you are on Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance or the guarantee credit part of Pension Credit.
- If you are getting Working Tax Credit and/or Child Tax Credit, depending on your income.
- If you are getting Universal Credit, dependant on your earnings.
Find out more about who is exempt from prescription charges by downloading our factsheet.
How do prescription charges work?
Once a person is on the exempt list, they get their prescriptions for everything free of charge.
For those who do have to pay, there are two methods of payment: single items can be purchased as and when required, or a prescription prepayment certificate (PPC) can be purchased which will cover costs for three or 12 months and works out cheaper if a lot of prescriptions are required.
What are the current prescription charges in England?
The prescription charges in England, as of 1 April 2018, are:
- Single prescription: £8.80
- Three-month PPC: £29.10
- 12-month PPC: £104
What is the Government’s position on prescription charges?
An independent report called 'The Prescription Charges Review', which was undertaken by the Royal College of Physicians and published in May 2010, described how to fulfill a pledge of the Rt Hon Gordon Brown MP, to abolish prescription charges for people with long-term conditions.
However, the current Government does not recognise the issue or the concerns of the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, instead choosing to highlight exemption arrangements in England, based on age and income, via various means-tested benefits.
What is the Cystic Fibrosis Trust’s position on prescription charges?
We believe that all adults with cystic fibrosis should be exempt from prescription charges, wherever they live in the UK, for the following reasons:
- Cystic fibrosis is a life-shortening medical condition for which daily medication is essential. Adults with CF are often considerably disadvantaged in economic terms by their condition. Further financial hardship is caused by having to pay prescription charges.
- For those adults with CF who are in financial difficulty, there is a danger that having to pay for prescriptions may act as a disincentive to take essential treatment.
- It is illogical and unjust that others with similar or less serious conditions are exempt from prescription charges whilst those with CF are not.
- Cystic fibrosis meets the requirements laid down by the British Medical Association in 1968 and accepted by the Government as criteria for exemption, specifically that conditions to be included on the exempt list should be ‘readily identifiable conditions, which in virtually all cases call automatically for prolonged continuous medication.’
We are part of the Prescription Charges Coalition (PCC) – a group of over 40 organisations campaigning to end unfair prescription charges for people with long-term medical conditions. The PCC actively campaigns on this issue and has published reports on prescription charges which can be found on their website.
In June 2018 it will be 50 years since the list that states which medical conditions are exempt from prescription charges was created, and the PCC are working hard to draw attention to their campaign with a petition to scrap prescription charges.
Find out more about our position by downloading our factsheet.
What is a Prescription Prepayment Certificate?
A Prescription Prepayment Certificate (PPC) lets you get as many NHS prescriptions as you need for a set price. A PPC costs £29.10 for three months and £104 for 12 months.
A PPC can be bought:
- From a pharmacy registered to sell PPCs.
- By telephone on 0300 330 1341. You will need your debit card or credit card details if you want to pay in full or bank or building society account details if you are paying for a 12-month PPC by Direct Debit.
- By post - complete the application form FP95 which is available online, in pharmacies and doctors' surgeries.
More information on the Prescription Prepayment Certificate (PPC) can be found online.
The Cystic Fibrosis Trust can offer financial help towards the first annual Prescription Prepayment Certificate. For more information about this and other grants we provide please contact the helpline on 0300 373 1000.