The cost of a single prescription will soar to more than £10 in just four years, a group of charities has warned.
The Prescription Charges Coalition has estimated that, based on the current trajectory of price hikes, a single prescription item will cost £10.15 in 2025.
The analysis, conducted for the PA news agency, also suggests that in 10 years’ time people can expect to pay an “eye-watering” £11.35 for a single item.
The projected price increases have been dubbed a “tax on health” by the Coalition, a group of 20 organisations campaigning to abolish prescription charges for people with long-term conditions.
The analysis comes as new charges come into force.
From April 1 the cost of a prescription has risen from £9.15 to £9.35.
Meanwhile the cost of an annual prescription pre-payment certificate, which lets people get as many prescriptions as they need for a set price, has increased by £2.20 from £105.90 last year to £108.10 this year.
The Coalition has called on the Government to “urgently” review the prescription charge exemption list which entitles people with some medical conditions free prescriptions.
It said that the list was created so long ago that conditions like HIV did not even exist at the time.
The Coalition said that aside from the addition of cancer in 2009, the list of exempt conditions has not changed since 1968.
Prescription Charges Coalition chairwoman, Laura Cockram, who is also head of policy and campaigns at the charity Parkinson’s UK, said that some people are forced to choose between medication and food.
She told the PA news agency: “The prescription charge rise means that it’s an extra cost for people to stay well.
“What it means for people with long term conditions is that sometimes people will choose between picking up their vital medication that will keep them well or actually eating.”
She added: “We are very worried at the Prescription Charges Coalition that people with long term conditions are being put off of getting their medication
“We did some research a couple of years ago and found a third of people who responded to our survey said they were not picking up their medication.
“And subsequently that meant they actually needed to seek more medical help, whether that was contacting their GP or maybe in some extraordinary cases actually go to a hospital.
“We think he could have an impact on people with long-term conditions, going into hospital maybe, and putting increased pressure on the NHS, just when the NHS doesn’t really need it.”
Ms Cockram continued: “The charge has gone up about 20p every year for the last couple of years.
“It’s not just the individual prescription items that have I’ve gone up, but also the prepayment certificate has gone up as well.
“So it is meaning that it’s almost like a tax on the health or an additional cost, just to stay healthy.
“What we could potentially be looking at in 2025, is it costing over £10 per item for prescriptions and potentially if we were to see the same rises over the next 10 years it would an eye-watering £11.35 per item in terms of a prescription.”
On the call for the Government to review the exemption list, Ms Cockram added: “We’re calling for an urgent review of the list, HIV wasn’t even around when the exemption list was created, people with cystic fibrosis were not expected to live to be adults when it was created.
“Its is over 50 years old, and also massively unfair for people who live in England who faced the charge that people in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, get their prescriptions for free.”
Previous economic modelling has suggested that the NHS could save millions by scrapping prescriptions for people with long-term conditions.
Research by the York Health Economics Consortium at the University of York in 2018 found that if the charge was abolished for just two long-term conditions the NHS could save more than £20 million a year.
It has been estimated that around one in three people with many long-term conditions who pay for their prescriptions have not collected a prescription due to the cost.
This can lead to a deterioration of health, which in turn leads to more demand on costly NHS resources.
Researchers suggested that any loss in prescription revenue from removing charges would be more than offset by savings to the NHS in England, totalling £20.8 million per year for inflammatory bowel disease and Parkinson’s disease alone.
The Coalition said that England is now the only part of the UK that charges for prescriptions.