Over half (58%) of healthcare professionals in England say their patients have had an asthma attack or required emergency care because they couldn’t afford their prescription.
The revelation comes in a new report, A Hidden Harm: why healthcare professionals want to stop unfair asthma prescription charges, by Asthma UK. Speaking at the launch of the report Samantha Walker, Director of Research and Policy at the charity, called for prescription charges for patients with asthma to be abolished.
‘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,’ said Ms Walker.
With deaths from asthma at their highest for more than a decade, the majority of surveyed professionals (92%) believe that asthma medication prescriptions should be free. They are calling for a review of the medical exemptions list in order to abolish these prescription costs. This list has not been significantly changed since it was created in 1968.
‘I know first-hand that the cost of asthma prescriptions can be harmful to patients,’ said Bonnie Beard, a lead respiratory nurse in Essex. She also reported that patients ‘are borrowing their child’s inhaler or one from a relative or friend which means they are taking medication which may not be right for them’.
In the wake of this report, which was compiled with the help of The Royal College of Nursing, the Association of Respiratory Nurse Specialists and the Primary Care Respiratory Society, a petition has been started by Asthma UK, aimed at eliminating charges for asthma prescriptions and is over halfway to its goal of 100,000 signatures.