NHS ‘could save £20 million per year’ by scrapping prescription charges for people with IBD

22 May 2018

New research from the York Health Economics Consortium (YHEC) has found that scrapping prescription charges for people with Inflammatory Bowel Disease would save NHS England more than £200 million over the next 10 years. 

The research commissioned by Crohn’s and Colitis UK and Parkinson’s UK, co-chairs of the Prescription Charges Coalition, quantifies the impact of prescription charges on working age people with long-term conditions.

For those living with Inflammatory Bowel Disease who are not exempt from paying prescription charges, around a third don’t pick up or take their medication properly due to the cost. This can then lead to a deterioration in their health resulting in additional treatment being needed.

The new independent economic analysis shows that any loss in prescription revenue from removing charges would be more than offset by savings to the NHS in England - totaling £20.9m per year for Inflammatory Bowel Disease (£20.1m) and Parkinson’s (£0.8m) alone.

The money would be saved by significantly reducing the health complications and associated treatment for these conditions resulting from people not taking their medicine due to the cost of prescriptions.  Reductions would be seen in hospital admissions, inpatient days, A&E visits, treatments for colorectal cancer and GP appointments.

Nick Hex

Our analysis clearly shows that there is potential for overall cost savings to the NHS, through the avoidance of complications associated with non-adherence to drug regimes, if people of working age with Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Parkinson’s were exempt from prescription charges.  This would also improve the quality of life for patients who may not adhere to their drugs for cost reasons.

Nick Hex, Associate Director,
York Health Economics Consortium, University of York

The Prescription Charges Coalition’s Still Paying the Price report found that 1 in 3 people with over 40 different long-term conditions who pay for their prescriptions have not collected a prescription due to the cost.  This has a significant impact on medicine adherence, self-management, quality of life and health outcomes.  

Jackie Glatter

This research is really groundbreaking as it demonstrates for the first time, using sound economic modelling, that prescription charges are a false economy to the NHS and cost more in the long term. The Government have admitted that the current prescription exemption criteria are outdated and arbitrary, now we have proven these are also. It’s time the Government fundamentally reformed the system of charges and exemptions to ensure those with long term conditions can freely get the medicines they need to maintain their health and quality of life and to deliver more effective use of NHS resources.

Jackie Glatter, Health Service Development Manager, 
Crohn's & Colitis UK (Co-chair, Prescription Charges Coalition)

The research comes during the 50th anniversary of creation of the list of medical conditions exempt from prescription charges, first introduced in 1968. These have changed little in half a century, despite huge changes in technology and medicine management.

The new research by the York Health Economics Consortium will be presented to MPs at an event in Parliament on Wednesday 23 May to build Parliamentary support for reform.

Call to action

We need your help to get our petition over 20,000 signatures. Please help make the case for change by signing the petition.

Find out more

Visit the NHS Help with Health Costs website for information about exemption certificates, the NHS Low Income Scheme and the Prescription Prepayment Certificate, which can help to limit and manage your prescription costs.