Friday, 07 July 2017 11:43

Student mental health prescriptions should be free, say Royal College of GPs

Students are not known for their riches, in fact we often write about the difficulties that students face when it comes to funding themselves through university and budgeting ever stretched finances.

That is why it is always positive to hear when a new idea comes to light which will help to ease the financial burden on people that are struggling financially.

And that is exactly what has come to the fore this week as the Royal College of GPs has said that charges for mental health prescriptions for students should be revised and, if possible, scrapped altogether.

This would mean that students at university who suffer from anxiety and/or depression or the like would be exempt from paying the £8.60 prescription charge and would get their medication for free.

GPs believe that mental health medication is vital to wellbeing, especially at a stressful time in life such as studying and taking exams and this should mean that students, who are already strapped for cash, shouldn’t have to pay.

They believe that if the prescription charge remains at this price for students, it is opening up the possibility that students, because they are short of money, will not collect and pay for their much needed medication in a bid to save money. This could lead to a worsening of their condition and could lead to students getting clinically depressed and unable to get out of the spiral.

Many experts in the industry support the calls but no official recommendation has been made, and even it was, it would still take a couple of years to push through.

Students on this kind of medication don’t have to pay whilst they are at college but as soon as they are over 18 years of age they have to pay the same prescription charge as everyone else.

Whilst a large number of students and medical professionals appreciate and back the idea of free student mental health prescriptions, it has, however, angered others.

Some students who have prescriptions for other medical reasons say they would feel discriminated against. They say that whilst mental health disorders are a serious thing that needs medical monitoring and treatment, they also point out that other medical issues are just as important, so unless there were plans to abolish all prescription charges for all student medical conditions, it wouldn’t be worth it as it would just raise concerns of discrimination and would open up a can of worms as to what people believed were serious medical conditions and trivial ones.

In the meantime, before any decisions on prescription charges are made, students are advised to always budget and allow for essentials like prescriptions. Money should always be available and contingencies should always be in place for things of this importance and magnitude.

The Department of Health, when questioned about the report from the Royal College of GPs, said that there were already provisions in place for people on a low income, which in many cases, already involved students.

They say that some students on a low income can get exemptions and added that 90 per cent of prescription items are free on the NHS anyway.

Many students point out, though, that a parent’s income is taken into account when means testing for a student prescription, so regardless of whether a particular student is struggling for money, if their parents are above the low income threshold, the student in question won’t receive anything.

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