Two-thirds of primary care professionals polled believed long-term conditions should be exempt from prescription charges, a survey commissioned by Drugs and Therapeutics Bulletin (DTB) has found.
A similar proportion wanted the charges lowered or abolished altogether.
The DTB survey sent the poll to 1800 nurses, GPs and community pharmacists. Of the 416 respondents, 93 were nurses. Fifty nine per cent of nurses strongly disagreed that the current prescription charges in the UK were appropriate. When asked whether NHS prescription charge exemptions should be extended to cover all chronic conditions, 45 per cent of nurses strongly agreed. Currently conditions such as asthma and multiple sclerosis are not exempt.
A nurse commented: 'People often don't get all their inhalers as they can't afford them, hence they often have poor control of asthma or COPD.'
Professor Matt Griffiths, an independent nurse consultant and professor in prescribing medicines, agreed that allowing all long-term conditions to be exempt from prescription charges could help to reduce hospital admissions for conditions such as asthma or COPD.
'For conditions that require more than one prescribed medicine, in my personal experience, I have found that some patients cannot afford them, so will not take them. This then means that their condition is poorly managed which could lead to unnecessary hospital admissions.'
A number of charities such as Asthma UK and Crohns and Colitis UK support a change to prescription charges to include all long-term conditions.
England is the only country in the UK that charges patients for prescription medicines. Some groups based on age, income and certain medical conditions, such as diabetes and cancer, are exempt from the charges.