‘Harmful’ prescription charges for asthma medication should be scrapped, warn nurses

The majority of nurses want ‘harmful’ prescription charges for people with asthma to be scrapped.

Matt Bodell
11 September 2019
Asthma Medication Inhaler Nebuliser

Patients are at risk of life-threatening asthma attacks simply because they can’t afford their medication.

Hundreds of nurses called for ‘harmful’ prescription costs for people with asthma to be scrapped after seeing patients have an asthma attack or need emergency treatment because of the high cost of prescriptions.

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A report published today by Asthma UK in collaboration with The Royal College of Nursing and Association of Respiratory Nurse Specialists, includes findings from a survey of more than 600 nurses in the UK as well as 150 other healthcare professionals including doctors, pharmacists, and paramedics.

The research highlights the harmful impact prescription charges are having on people with asthma, putting them at risk of life-threatening asthma attacks because they can’t afford their medication.

Nurses reported patients borrowing inhalers from their friends, relatives or even their own children because they couldn’t afford to buy their own – putting them at risk of taking the wrong medication, or the wrong dose.

‘An outdated and unfair policy’.

One healthcare professional told Asthma UK that she had found the money herself to pay for her patient’s prescription because she was worried about them being unable to afford their life-saving medication.

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A majority of nurses surveyed (92%) want ‘harmful’ prescription charges for people with asthma to be scrapped.

Samantha Walker, Director of Research and Policy at Asthma UK and a qualified nurse, said:“It’s really worrying that nurses who are working so hard to help their patients stay well are seeing people with asthma suffer because of an outdated and unfair policy. It is high time the Government took action and urgently reviewed asthma prescription charges so that people with asthma aren’t put at risk of avoidable but potentially life-threatening asthma attacks. No one should have to pay to breathe.”

‘Only making their condition worse’.

Wendy Preston, Head of Nursing Practice at the Royal College of Nursing said: “It cannot be acceptable that some people with long-term conditions are missing out on their vital medication because they cannot afford it.

“Nurses see the impact of this every day of the week and know what happens when people do not take their vital medication.

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“This will only make their condition worse and they will end up needing further treatment adding additional pressure the health and care system.

“It is time that there is equity with other long-term conditions such as diabetes where prescription charges are exempt.”

Asthma UK is urging people with asthma, nurses and other healthcare professionals to join its Stop Unfair Asthma Prescription Charges campaign and sign its petition to end prescription charges.

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