Wakefield MP backs campaign to challenge Government on prescription charges

Wakefield MP Mary Creagh
Wakefield MP Mary Creagh

Wakefield MP challenges Government on prescription charges that are putting thousands in Yorkshire and the Humber at risk of a life-threatening asthma attack.

New research from charity Asthma UK reveals people with asthma are rationing their medication due to prescription costs and it’s causing asthma attacks and hospital admissions.

Wakefield MP Mary Creagh has pledged to support a campaign that could help thousands of people with asthma in Yorkshire and Humber who are struggling to pay for their asthma prescription charges and could be at an increased risk of having a life-threatening asthma attack.

Mary Creagh is backing Asthma UK’s Stop Unfair Asthma Prescription Charges campaign after the charity revealed that more than three quarters (76 per cent) of people with asthma in Yorkshire and Humber who were surveyed by Asthma UK said they struggle to afford the cost of asthma prescriptions. This equates to an estimated 144,000 people.

Worryingly, more than half (57 per cent) of people with asthma in England who pay for their medication and who responded to Asthma UK’s survey have cut back on taking it because of the cost.

This puts them at risk of having a life-threatening asthma attack because the best way for people with asthma to stay well is to take their medication, including their preventer inhaler, every day.

Around a quarter of people with asthma who were surveyed who said they had cut back on taking their medication because of the cost of prescription charges said it led to an asthma attack. More than 1 in 10 said they had needed hospital treatment.

Last year, 384 people were hospitalised with asthma within Wakefield Clinical Commissioning Group.

In addition to a preventer inhaler, people with asthma have to pay for a reliever inhaler to use if their symptoms flare up or if they have an asthma attack. Many also need other prescriptions, such as allergy medication to prevent them from having an asthma attack or antibiotics to treat a chest infection.

On average, asthma prescription charges cost more than £100 per year but thousands of people may be paying more than £400 per year.

Mary Creagh thinks it’s unacceptable that so many people with asthma in Wakefield have to pay for prescriptions just to stay well. People with other life-threatening long-term conditions such as diabetes and epilepsy, and those in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland get their prescriptions free.

Asthma UK says that asthma should be exempt from prescription costs because it is a growing problem. The number of adults with a lifetime diagnosis of asthma in the UK is increasing.

The UK death rate from asthma has increased 20 per cent in the last five years and is among the worst in Europe.

Every year, asthma costs the NHS £297 million in hospital admissions and GP appointments.

Asthma UK says if the Government supports people to manage their asthma by removing barriers such as prescription costs it could help people avoid asthma attacks. This could reduce hospital admissions, A&E attendances and GP appointments, which are expensive for the NHS.

Cathy Worboys, 49, a personal assistant from Ware in Hertfordshire says her 19-year-old daughter Holly, who died in January 2016 from an asthma attack, would still be alive today if prescription charges hadn’t discouraged her taking her asthma medication regularly.

“Holly worked as a waitress and was on a low income. She found it difficult to pay for her asthma medicine so me and her boyfriend helped where we could. She appeared to have mild asthma but one day she had a terrible asthma attack out of the blue.

“As Holly only had one dose of medicine left in her inhaler, even as she struggled to breathe she didn’t want to take it, saying she’d save it for when she really needed it.

“The horrific irony is that was the moment Holly really did need it. Within minutes of having her asthma attack, Holly fell unconscious and died before she got to hospital.

“It is grossly unfair that people with asthma have to pay for medicine they need for their entire life just to stay alive. I don’t want anyone else to go through what we have. If the cost of asthma medicine is preventing people from taking it, the Government should do everything it can to help people stay well.”

Mary Creagh, MP for Wakefield said: “It is unacceptable that thousands of people with asthma in Yorkshire and Humber are paying unfair costs for their medicines and that this is putting their health in jeopardy. When people with asthma are struggling financially they may feel they simply cannot afford to pay for the medication. By not taking it, they are at risk of being hospitalised or even dying from an asthma attack.

“No one should have to pay to breathe.”

Dr Samantha Walker, Director of Research and Policy at Asthma UK said: “We are delighted that Mary Creagh is supporting our campaign to abolish unfair prescription charges for people with asthma. She could help us change the lives of millions of people with asthma in England for the better.

“Asthma is a serious condition and every day three people in the UK die from an asthma attack. The best way for people to stay well is to take their life-saving medication, often for their entire life.

“But the cost of prescription charges is too much for many people which means they are cutting back on their medication and putting their health and life at risk. This is unacceptable.

“It is grossly unfair that people with asthma have to pay for prescription charges especially when those with other long-term conditions get theirs free. That’s why we’re calling on the government to stop prescription charges for people with asthma.

"As there is strength in numbers we are urging everyone to sign our petition at www.asthma.org.uk/prescriptioncharges to make the biggest impact. Together we can make sure no one has to pay to breathe.”