MILLIONS of Brits will be affected by two major changes to NHS prescription charges this week.
Most people will have to pay more for their prescriptions as of April 1, after the Government unveiled plans to increase charges in line with inflation.
Prescription charges were frozen at £9.35 per item last April to help Brits cope with the cost of living crisis.
But the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) now plans to apply an inflationary rate of 3.21 per cent – bringing prescription charges to £9.65.
The cost of prescription pre-payment certificates (PPCs) will also be increased: 3-month PPC increases by £1 to £31.25 and 12-month PPC increases by £3.50 to £111.60.
England is the only country in the UK that still charges for prescription meds.
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Meanwhile Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland scrapped the charges more than a decade ago.
But plenty of people in England can still pick up their prescription meds free of charge – as long as they are part of certain eligible groups.
The Government recently scrapped plans to lift the qualifying age for free prescriptions from 60 to 65 – after the proposal sparked anger and fears that many wouldn't be able to afford their medicines.
HRT prescription change
Also from April 1, women are set to benefit from a hormone replacement therapy prepayment certificate, in a win for The Sun’s Fabulous Menopause Matters campaign.
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Patients will be able to buy an £18.70 annual pass for HRT starting this week – they can apply for the certificate online or at a pharmacy.
The one-off payment entitles them to unlimited HRT prescriptions issued by their doctor.
It means about 400,00 women will be able to save hundreds of pounds per year on their scripts.
HRT helps ease the symptoms of menopause such as hot flushes, mood swings and trouble in the bedroom.
Women’s Health Ambassador for the Government, Dame Lesley Regan, hailed the prepayment certificate as 'a major step forward in prioritising the health and wellbeing of women'.
But pharmacy bosses have flagged that the scheme might not get off to a smooth start on April 1.
In documents published last week, the DHSC admitted that the scheme could initially place additional workload and costs on pharmacy staff as a result of “mixed prescriptions issued in error”.
This happens when both HRT and another treatment appear on the same script.
The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee also slammed the NHS for not having the proper IT systems in place to support the prepayment certificate launch on April 1.
Dr Leyla Hannbeck, chief executive of the Association for Independent Multiple Pharmacies, warned that these two issues risk creating 'confusion for patients'.
NHS dentist charges to rise
In a kick in the teeth to patients, the price of an NHS dentist check-up is also set to rise from £23.80 to £25.80 on April 24.
Meanwhile, a filling appointment will cost patients £70.70, up from £65.20.
Health Minister Neil O’Brien confirmed the changes to MPs earlier this week.
It comes as millions struggle to see their dentist, with three in 10 kids now starting school with rotting teeth.
A YouGov poll last week also revealed one in 10 Brits have even resorted to DIY dentistry to save cash or because they couldn’t get an appointment.
Currently, free prescriptions are available for the following people:
1. Are 60 or over
2. Are under 16
3. Are 16 to 18 and in full-time education
4. Are pregnant or have had a baby in the previous 12 months and have a valid maternity exemption certificate (MatEx)
5. Have a specified medical condition and have a valid medical exemption certificate (MedEx)
6. Have a continuing physical disability that prevents you going out without help from another person and have a valid medical exemption certificate (MedEx)
7. Hold a valid war pension exemption certificate and the prescription is for your accepted disability
8. Are an NHS inpatient
If you or your partner (including civil partner) receive, or you're under the age of 20 and the dependant of someone receiving:
9. Income Support
10. Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance
11. Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
12. Pension Credit Guarantee Credit
13. Universal Credit and meet the criteria
If you're entitled to or named on:
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14. A valid NHS tax credit exemption certificate – if you do not have a certificate, you can show your award notice. You qualify if you get Child Tax Credits, Working Tax Credits with a disability element (or both), and have income for tax credit purposes of £15,276 or less
15. A valid NHS certificate for full help with health costs (HC2).
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