The injustice of prescription charges for kidney patients

Right now, in the UK, around 70,000 people are living with kidney failure, with just over half alive due a kidney transplant and the remainder on dialysis.

Transplant is the gold standard treatment for kidney failure, but not everyone is able to have one and sadly there are more people needing a kidney transplant than there are kidneys available via the organ donor register. At this moment, the transplant waiting list is the longest it has been for a decade.

The more than 30,000 people on dialysis need either to go to hospital three times a week for 3-4 hours at a time for their life-sustaining treatment or have their dialysis treatment at home. Either way, dialysis is a very challenging treatment.

People on dialysis often have other conditions to manage, such as diabetes, and many people will feel unwell during and just after dialysis itself, as blood pressure can be too high or too low, and nausea, fainting and confusion are common.

Research shows that some people are not taking medication as prescribed to save money. Taking medication as prescribed helps patients to treat their chronic condition but also prevents them from developing further complications.

We believe that if you have a diagnosis of advanced chronic kidney disease (CKD) then you should not have to pay for your prescriptions.

Prescription charging in England: an unfair system that needs to change

Everyone who is registered with a GP in Scotland, Northern Ireland or Wales is entitled to free prescriptions.

In England, unless you are exempt from prescription charges, you need to pay a fee for each of your prescription items. This was £9.65 but today (1 May 2024) this becomes £9.90.

We are part of the Prescription Charges Coalition because we think the system is unfair and outdated and we don’t believe that you should have to pay for your prescriptions if you have CKD.

Everyone should be able to access the medication they need to stay well for free, without worrying about whether or not they can afford it. When people can’t afford their medication they either don’t take it at all or they take less of it – which in the long term can cause them to become unwell and add additional strain to the NHS.

Many kidney patients in England decide to purchase an NHS Prescription Prepayment Certificate, which covers all your NHS prescriptions for a set price, but tell us they feel discriminated against and how unfair the system is.

We agree. We think the current system is particularly unfair for kidney patients, many of whom need to take medication for the rest of their lives, just to stay alive.

We’re calling on the government to review and reform this unjust and outdated system to make prescriptions free for everyone living with a long-term condition in England, as they are in other parts of the United Kingdom.

Medication for CKD and transplant patients

  • Prescription charges for kidney patients

    Kidney patients living in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are entitled to free prescriptions. If you live in England, the rules for people living with chronic kidney disease (CKD) and receiving haemodialysis or peritoneal dialysis or transplant recipients are more complicated.

  • Medicines for chronic kidney disease (CKD)

    Medicines can be used to help the symptoms of chronic kidney disease (CKD).

  • Medicines commonly taken by people after transplant or with an autoimmune disease

    About medicines for transplant recipients and people with autoimmune disease: different immunosuppressants, how to take them, side effects, and sources of further information and advice