Always laugh when you can. It is cheap medicine.
When Lord Byron first offered this advice he could not have imagined the scale and cost of medicines prescribed in England 200 years later (which are certainly no laughing matter).
According to government figures, published by the Health and Social Care Information Centre there were just over 1 billion items prescribed in 2012 by community pharmacists, appliance contractors and dispensing doctors. The Net Ingredient Cost of these items, which excludes the cost of dispensing and fees was approximately £8.5 billion. This equates to almost £160 per head of the population.
Prescription charges paid by patients amounted to about £480 million and although this seems a lot it is only 5.7% of the total Net Ingredient Cost.
What accounts for the remainder?
In England, prescriptions are free of charge to :
Department of Health leaflet HC11 and www.nhsba.nhs.uk provides more information regarding eligibility for help with prescription charges and health costs (including NHS dental charges, sight tests, vouchers towards the cost of glasses and contact lenses, travel costs to and from hospital for NHS treatment or travelling abroad for treatment and wigs and fabric supports).
Prepayment certificates for a cost-effective option for people who require regularly prescribed medication and to have to pay prescription charges. Prepayment certificates can be obtained for 3 months for 12 months (which can be paid for in 10 equal monthly direct debit instalments). They can be obtained over the phone or online from the NHS Business Services Authority, 0845 850 0030 or, www.nhsba.nhs.uk, or from a pharmacist or from the local Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).
Prescription charges have long since been abolished in Scotland and Wales. Given the scale of the contribution they make to the cost of prescribed items overall in England it would appear to be more cost effective to look at ways of reducing the £8.5bn+ bill (remember this excludes fees and dispensing costs) than to persist with the charges and the complex series of exemptions