The government is aiming to increase the prescription charge by 20 pence, to help it deliver its promise of streaming £10 billion into frontline NHS services by 2020/21.

From April 2018, the charge is to rise 2.3 percent to £8.80 for each medicine or appliance dispensed on the NHS.

However, the cost of prescription prepayment certificates (PPC) will be frozen for another year, to “ensure that those with the greatest need, and who are not already exempt from the charge, are protected,” said the Department for Health and Social Care.

The three-month PPC remains at £29.10 and the cost of the annual PPC will stay at £104.

Prescription charges were abolished in Wales in 2007, Northern Ireland in 2010 and Scotland in 2011, but around 10 percent of patients in England are still expected to pay for their medicines, bringing more than £450 million to the Department of Health’s coffers.

The Prescription Charges Coalition says the current system is unfair, because aside from the fact that patients living in England are the only ones in the UK having to pay for prescriptions, there is also variation among the long-term conditions that quality for free treatment.

According to the group’s website, research surveying thousands of people with long-term conditions demonstrates that prescription charges “are a major barrier to people taking their medicines effectively, leading them to severely compromise their health”.

This, it says, results in poorer quality of life, worse health outcomes, additional treatment, unplanned hospital admissions, decreased productivity and increased reliance on benefits.

“The medical exemption criteria, set in 1968 and largely unchanged since, are out-of-date and arbitrary. As the criteria will be 50 years old in June 2018, we believe reform is now long overdue.”

The Coalition’s petition calling on the government to end prescription charges for long-term conditions has now reached over 8,000 signatures.