If passed into law, a private members’ bill could see prescription charges for hormone replacement therapy (HRT) scrapped in England.
The Menopause (Support and Services) Bill, which is scheduled for its second reading on 29 October 2021, was first presented to Parliament in June 2021 by Carolyn Harris, Labour MP for Swansea East.
Patients in England currently pay £9.35 for each prescription item, including for HRT; however, the bill would mean patients in England would be entitled to free HRT prescriptions, in line with Scotland and Wales, where all prescriptions are free to everyone.
The bill would also make provisions for menopause support and services.
Its first reading followed a debate in the House of Commons on 6 June 2021, in which Harris highlighted a lack of education in medical schools about the menopause.
“An astounding 41% of UK universities do not have mandatory menopause education on the curriculum,” she said, quoting a survey by Menopause Support.
“Women should not be left to suffer through a lack of awareness, inadequate support or financial restraints,” she added.
“They deserve to be given the reassurance that they can access treatment without worrying about how to pay for it, and they deserve to be assured of all the support and care that they need.”
On Twitter, Harris said support from other MPs suggests there is “a real chance of successfully pushing through my private member’s Bill to make HRT free for all women”.
A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care told The Pharmaceutical Journal that it will work with Harris on the issues highlighted by the bill.
They said: “We’re deeply committed to ensuring those who want access to HRT get it and are taking immediate steps to drive women’s health to the top of the agenda through the first government-led Women’s Health Strategy for England.”
Thorrun Govind, chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s English Pharmacy Board, said: “Pharmacists play an important role in supporting women’s health, and making HRT free for menopausal women would be a welcome move.
“However, the government should go further and abolish prescription charges in England altogether, as already seen in Scotland and Wales.
“If the government is serious about reducing health inequalities, it must also reverse course on plans to make people [aged] over 60 [years] start paying for their prescriptions.”
In July 2021, the government proposed raising the upper age exemption for free prescriptions in England to 66 years in an effort generate added revenue for the NHS.