I am concerned by the findings of Asthma UK’s report that many people are struggling to afford their prescriptions and that some are not collecting their medication because of the cost. Skipping medication can have a severe impact on the health of people living with asthma and nobody should be forced to put themselves at risk of a life-threatening asthma attack.
Asthma is unlike other conditions in that it varies over time and seasonal triggers can make it difficult for patients to predict how much medication they will need throughout the year.
Prescription charges in England have risen by 25% since 2010. This is a reflection of the Government’s financial mismanagement of the NHS and, at a time when the cost of living continues to rise, the Government should be doing much more to help people with the cost of healthcare.
I recognise that there is strong support for making prescriptions free to people with asthma, as demonstrated by a recent petition which received more than 57,000 signatures. While there is a broad system of exemptions from prescription charges, including for those on low incomes and for people with some long-term medical conditions, asthma is not included on the medical exemption list.
The list of medical exemptions was agreed in 1968 and the only addition since then has been the treatment of cancer in 2009. I believe the list is now outdated and I support a review into which long-term health conditions should be exempt from NHS prescription charges. The Labour frontbench will press the Government at every opportunity to undertake this review and ensure that Ministers listen and respond to the concerns raised by people living with asthma.