Around 800,000 people with asthma in England have to cut their food or household budgets to afford vital medication – but prescriptions are free in Scotland and Wales
- Asthma UK surveyed 9,000 people with the condition to get its results
- It found hundreds of thousands of people in England have to worry about costs
- NHS prescription costs rose in England for the third year in a row last month
- But prescription drugs are free in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland
Around 800,000 asthma sufferers in England have been forced to cut back on food to pay for their medication, a charity has claimed.
Asthma UK said many patients face an ‘impossible’ choice between household essentials and prescription medication.
More than five million people in the UK have the lung condition and, without inhalers or drugs to control it, are at risk of suffering a deadly asthma attack.
But more than a third of those surveyed said they had to chuck things out of their shopping basket or put off paying bills so they could afford their medicine.
More than five million people in the UK have asthma and in England, where many still have to pay for their prescription medication, hundreds of thousands of people are having to cut their budgets for food and household bills in order to afford the drugs (stock image)
Asthma UK surveyed 9,000 people with asthma to discover the financial difficulties they face.
Some 35 per cent of them said they’d sacrificed food for medicine money, while another 21 per cent had cut back on bills.
The latter could amount to as many as 480,000 people in the UK, the charity said.
NHS prescription costs rose in April for the third year in a row and now cost £9 per prescription – up from £8.80.
WHAT IS ASTHMA?
Asthma is a common but incurable condition which affects the small tubes inside the lungs.
It can cause them to become inflamed, or swollen, which restricts the airways and makes it harder to breathe.
The condition affects people of all ages and often starts in childhood. Symptoms may improve or even go away as children grow older, but can return in adulthood.
Symptoms include wheezing, breathlessness, a tight chest and coughing, and these may get worse during an asthma attack.
Treatment usually involves medication which is inhaled to calm down the lungs.
Triggers for the condition include allergies, dust, air pollution, exercise and infections such as cold or flu.
If you think you or your child has asthma you should visit a doctor, because it can develop into more serious complications like fatigue or lung infections.
Medicines prescribed by a doctor are free in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, while English patients who have other long-term conditions such as diabetes or epilepsy may be exempt.
This leaves many in England to continue paying for their regular medication, which could mean the difference between life and death if they have an asthma attack.
Dr Samantha Walker, director of research and policy at Asthma UK said: ‘The stark reality is that hundreds of thousands of people with asthma are faced with an impossible choice – cut back on essentials like food and bills or cut back on the medication that could save their life.
‘People with asthma are struggling to pay for their prescriptions and around a million are cutting back on taking their medication because of the cost.
‘This puts them at risk of being hospitalised or even dying from an asthma attack.’
Around 2.3million people with asthma pay for their prescription in England.
And the charity has now launched a campaign, Stop Unfair Asthma Prescription Charges, in a bid to make medication free for those with the condition.
Prescription charges have been scrapped in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, while those in England with long-term conditions such as diabetes and epilepsy are entitled to a medical exemption certificate to avoid the cost.
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