Some two-thirds of cancer patients in the UK are still paying for their medication, more than four months after the introduction of free prescriptions.

That is the warning from Macmillan Cancer Support which has started a campaign urging pharmacists to check cancer patients know they are entitled to free prescriptions. According to new figures from the Department of Health, only a third of the 150,000 people eligible have applied for an exemption certificate which would allow them to collect their treatment free of charge.

Mike Hobday, head of campaigns and policy at Macmillan, said “it’s worrying that the overwhelming majority of cancer patients are still scrimping and saving to pay for their medication”. He went on to say that pharmacists are “a trusted source of information in the community so it’s vitally important they know about the new system”.

Mr Hobday concluded by calling on the government to do more “to ensure both GPs and pharmacists are clear on the guidance around exemption.” Macmillan also noted that it has teamed up with Lloydspharmacy to raise awareness of free prescriptions.

The DoH Guidance states that GPs should issue an exemption certificate to people needing medication to treat any diagnosed cancer (including drugs prescribed after curative treatment eg tamoxifen and hormone replacement therapy, plus lymphoedema garments). It also covers the effects of cancer, including palliative care and changes to mental health since a cancer diagnosis, as well as the side-effects of cytotoxic drugs and the late effects of radiation.