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Why we are determined to make things fair

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Shine has added its voice to a campaign to end unfairness in prescription charging for people with long term health conditions.

The Prescription Charges Coalition, a group of over 40 organisations, is calling for people with all long term conditions to be added to the medical exemption list, and for the list to be updated as it is out-of-date and unfair.

The coalition recently surveyed more than 5,600 people living with long-term conditions to find out the impact prescription charges are having. The findings of the Still Paying The Price report, launched this summer, show that people are struggling to bear the costs of prescriptions, with many putting their health at risk by skipping or reducing doses of medication or not collecting prescriptions altogether.

One respondent explained: “I am stressed all the time about not having enough money and regularly have to make choices about whether I eat, heat my home or fill my prescriptions as well as all the other costs involved in just living.”

Only people in England pay for their prescriptions, and while many people are exempt on grounds of age, income or pregnancy, the prescription exemption list has changed very little in the last 50 years, despite treatments advancing in this time.

Gill Yaz, Health Development Manager at Shine, explained:

“This has left many inequalities. For example an adult with spina bifida and a urinary diversion would be exempt, whilst someone needing to use intermittent catheters, would not. An adult with spina bifida and epilepsy would have their prescriptions free, but someone with spina bifida and asthma would have to pay. Shine are proud to support the campaign to end this unfairness.”

Exemption also makes good economic sense: effective management of long term conditions can prevent complications, saving the need for further treatment and costly care down the line.

On 1st April 2017, prescription charges increased again to £8.60. Payments can be reduced and planned for by taking out a Prepayment Prescription Certificate, but that still amounts to more than £104 a year. Most paid-for prescriptions are also for working-aged people with a long-term health condition; one more obstacle for people moving into work.

According to the coalition report, 67% of respondents had not collected a prescription because of cost, 50% had to take time off work because missing medication made their condition worse, and 30% reduce or skip their doses, with more than four in ten of these citing cost as the reason. Almost 60% of those who skip or reduce doses have seen their health deteriorate as a result, with 34% requiring additional medical treatment.

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