05 June 2013
A proposition for the reintroduction of charges for hospital outpatient prescriptions has been lodged.
The proposed new charges, announced by the Minister for Health and Social Services, Deputy Anne Pryke, are intended to reduce pressure on the General Hospital and encourage patients to make greater use of community GP services.
Prescription charges at the Hospital Pharmacy were removed in 2008, following the decision by Social Security to remove charges for GP prescriptions. The proposition to reintroduce prescription charges would apply only to the hospital pharmacy, with a charge of £5 per item per month from October 2013.
Some outpatients would continue to be exempt from the prescription charge. These include:
- individuals who receive a personal-care component under the income support scheme
- individuals who receive assistance from Social Security with their Residential Care fees
- all children under 16 years of age
- vulnerable groups such as some psychiatric patients
In addition, certain medicines would also continue to be free for all people, including:
- all cancer treatments
- those prescribed for public health reasons, e.g for TB.
Under the proposed scheme, people with long-term illnesses requiring several medicines could pay an annual charge of £100, entitling them to a year of prescriptions (or £30 for a three-month entitlement). This would benefit patients with chronic diseases, effectively capping their prescription costs at less than £2 per week.
Deputy Pryke said "It is never easy to re-introduce charges once they have been removed. However, we believe this proposal offers significant benefits. The intention is to remove the existing financial incentive for patients to request a prescription from the hospital clinic for medicines they could obtain from their GP.
"As well as significantly increasing the hospital pharmacy workload, the current arrangement encourages patients to remain under follow up at the hospital for conditions that could safely be managed by their GP, thereby increasing hospital waiting times."
The Hospital Pharmacy dispenses around 120,000 outpatient items every year.
"The reintroduction of outpatient prescription charges would encourage more patients to be managed in the community where appropriate," said Deputy Pryke.
It is anticipated the reintroduction of hospital pharmacy prescription charges, proposed from October 2013, would be followed by a Social Security proposition to reintroduce community prescription charges in the near future.