A plan to enable women in England to pay a single annual prescription charge for hormone replacement therapy (HRT) will not be implemented until next year

Woman applying therapeutic patch_420145113_Andrey Popov

A plan to enable women in England to pay a single annual prescription charge for hormone replacement therapy (HRT) will not be implemented until next year.

The announcement by the Government has been described as ‘disappointing’. Prescriptions are currently free in Scotland and Wales.

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) has warned that it will add to inequalities for women across the country.

The DHSC announced last October that it would cut the cost of repeatable HRT prescriptions, with a potential saving of up to £205 a year as a result. The move could mean that women would only have to pay one charge of £18.70 for up to a 12-month supply of HRT.

Minister for Women’s Health, Maria Caulfield, told MPs in October: ‘For a woman currently prescribed HRT on a 3-monthly interval, moving to a 12-monthly repeatable prescription will make a saving of £56.10 a year.’ 

Ministers pledged to work with NHS England to implement longer prescribing cycles, in line with NICE guidelines. They also promised to examine combining both oestrogen and progesterone into one prescription, further helping around 10% of women on HRT.

Consultation on the scheme’s practicalities

However, last week, Ms Caulfield told the Commons Women and Equalities Committee, which is holding an inquiry into menopause and the workplace, that the scheme was not likely to be in place until April next year.

She told the Committee that ‘we are looking at the scheme right now to issue what’s called a prepayment certificate, specifically for HRT, so this is different to prepayment certificates for other medication that are in existence now.’

She explained: ‘We have to do consultation with the various bodies, so the pharmacy bodies, with the Royal colleges as well, around the practicalities of rolling this out.’

Her evidence prompted Carolyn Harris MP to write to the Minister asking for an explanation for the delay, saying that she had been ‘led to believe by the Department that implementation would happen in a matter of months.’

Frustrating delay

Prescriptions for HRT have more than doubled in England over the past 5 years, from 238,007 in January 2017 to 537,986 in December 2021.

Responding to the latest situation, Thorrun Govind, Chair of the RPS in England, said: ‘This is disappointing news. Delaying this move will frustrate many who already pay for monthly HRT prescriptions, and will further drive health inequalities already experienced by women across the country.

‘Women experiencing the menopause need support to stay well and remain in the workplace. For some, HRT prescriptions are an essential part of this, but also a financial drain during a cost of living crisis.

‘We believe everyone should have access to the medicines they need, regardless of ability to pay, and will continue to call on the Government to scrap prescription charges in England altogether.’

This article originally appeared on Medscape, part of the Medscape Professional Network.

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Lead image: Andrey Popov/stock.adobe.com
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