Prescription Charges to Increase in England This Week
Thursday, 31 March 2016
NHS prescription charges in England face a sharp increase this week, whereas prescriptions will continue to be free in other parts of Britain.
Charges for single prescriptions will increase by 20p on April 1st, an increase of 20p. This is to help fill a financial blackhole of £22 billion in the NHS. Despite these changes, residents in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland will continue to receive free medicine.
The move means that between 2010 and 2016, charges for prescriptions will have increased by £1.20.
Members of the Labour Party have described the hike in charges as a “kick in the teeth” for patients in England.
In addition, dental charges will increase by up to five percent this year and next year. In 2016-17, basic dental care charges will see a rise of 80p to £19.70. In 2017-18, it will rise by 90p to £20.60. The highest level of dental care will increase to £233.70 (a rise of £11.20) in 2016-17 and £244.30 in 2017-18 (an increase of £10.60).
On March 11th, the Department of Health announced the increase, describing it as a bit to make the best use of NHS resources.
According to health minister Alistair Burt, 90 percent of prescriptions will still be free of charge, but 10 percent of the population will need to pay more to access vital medicine from the NHS.
He also said the government would carry on protecting “the most vulnerable” people in society, regardless of the increase in prices.
The health minister went on to say that dental treatment on the NHS will continue to be free for people under 18, people under 19 and in full-time education, pregnant women and people who have had a baby in the last year, as well as those on low income benefits.
The BDA (British Dental Association) deemed the hike in dental prices as “unprecedented” and accused the government of treating the charges as a source of “easy money”.
Chair of the BDA’s general dental practice committee, Henrik Overgaard-Nielsen, said that the hike in dental charges will discourage the patients who need care the most.
He continued to say that the money doesn’t go to NHS dentists, who he says are being asked to play the role of a “tax collector”.
Mr Overgaard-Nielsen said that the increases will undermine the relationship between practitioners and patients. He said they were originally introduced to limit the demand for NHS dental treatment.
Labour’s Shadow Public Health Minister, Andrew Gwynne, said the increases are a “kick in the teeth” for patients. He said charges for prescriptions can build up and become costly, particularly at a time when family budgets are under pressure.
A spokesperson for the Department of Health said that increasing the charges is always a hard decision, but the increases for people who can pay means that income may be reinvested into the NHS, as part of the government’s vision for a seven-day service.
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