Free prescriptions for Yasmin
Yasmin had to leave her supermarket job on grounds of ill health when her eczema worsened. Our campaign to ensure that people like Yasmin who receive incapacity benefit can get free prescriptions prompted the introduction of new rules on prescription charges in April 2004.
Prescription charges high for people receiving incapcity benefit
At £6.40 per item, prescription charges are expensive. Many people are exempt from prescription charges, but 80 percent of people between 18 and 60 have to pay. People on incomes at or below income support level get free prescriptions but as soon as your income rises by even a few pence above income support, you have to pay the full charge, however many prescriptions you need, unless you are exempt on other grounds.
Many people find the charge difficult to afford and MORI research commissioned by Citizens Advice found that as many as 750,000 people were going without the prescriptions they need because they cannot afford the charge.
Our campaign for change
The problem looked set to get worse from April 2004 when benefit rates were uprated. With new benefit rates due in April 2004 set to make the problem even worse, many people like Yasmin who receive incapacity benefit because of their poor health were likely to find that the new rates left them a few pence above income support level losing their entitlement to free prescriptions.
Citizens Advice believes that the case for complete reform of prescription charges is overwhelming and recommends that the Government conducts a fundamental review examining all options including the case for further exemptions and abolishing charges altogether.
In March 2004, the Government rushed through a change in the regulations from April 6 – the day on which the benefit upratings came into effect. The new regulations raised the threshold for free prescriptions to £3.20 above the income support level. This ensured that people like Yasmin on short-term lower rate incapacity benefit continued to be entitled to free prescriptions.