Plans to make HRT cheaper might be DELAYED: Government stops short of promising cheaper menopause drugs by April
- Health minister Will Quince appeared to cast doubt on timing of proposals
- He told MPs that he was ‘confident’ the April 2023 target would be met
- But stopped short of offering a guarantee, describing it as an ‘ambition’
Plans to improve access to and reduce costs of HRT could be delayed, MPs have heard.
Health minister Will Quince appeared to cast doubt on whether proposals to allow women to pay a one-off annual charge for the treatment would be delivered by April 2023 as intended.
He said he was ‘confident’ the target would be met, but stopped short of offering a cast-iron guarantee, describing it only as an ‘ambition’.
Health minister Will Quince appeared to cast doubt on whether proposals to allow women to pay a one-off annual charge for the treatment would be delivered by April 2023 as intended
Women going through ‘the change’ can suffer anything from depression and anxiety to vaginal dryness and weight gain
Mr Quince said its introduction is ‘subject to the necessary consultation with professional bodies’ and this would be the reason for ‘any potential delay’.
The Government committed in October 2021 to introducing a single prescription charge of £18.70 per year for a 12-month supply of HRT, adding it would save women up to £205 per year.
WHAT IS THE MENOPAUSE?
Menopause is when a woman stops having periods, and is no longer able to get pregnant naturally.
It usually happens between the ages of 45 and 55.
It is a normal part of ageing and caused by levels of the sex hormone oestrogen dropping.
Some women go through this time with few, if any, symptoms.
Others suffer from hot flushes, sleeping difficulties, mood swings and brain fog, which can last for months or years and might change over time.
HRT replaces the hormones and is the main treatment used to treat symptoms — which can be severe and disrupt day-to-day life.
Menopause happens when your ovaries stop producing as much of the hormone oestrogen and no longer release an egg each month.
Earlier this year the Daily Mail called for the once-a-year charge to be introduced immediately as part of a wider HRT campaign.
Labour MP Carolyn Harris, a key campaigner in greater access for HRT, said it was ‘vital’ the annual payment was introduced ‘as soon as possible’.
She told a Westminster Hall debate yesterday (Thurs): ‘Menopause is not a choice and HRT is not a luxury, but for many women the monthly costs for their prescriptions will be one of the casualties of family finance cutbacks.
‘Women have already waited for a year. The last date we were advised for its introduction was April 2023 and I’d be grateful if when the minister responds we could today have a guarantee that this date will not slip any further back.’
Mr Quince, concluding the debate, said: ‘We are absolutely committed to reducing the cost of HRT prescriptions through a bespoke pre-payment certificate for HRT and we will introduce this from April 2023, now here’s the caveat, subject to the necessary consultation with professional bodies.
‘My honourable friend asks me for a cast-iron guarantee – my honourable friend also knows me well enough to know that I don’t make promises that I can’t keep.
‘I’m not the responsible minister, but I do know – and I firmly believe – that politics is the art of the possible and as long as I’m a minister of state at the Department of Health and Social Care I will make sure that the department’s feet are held to the fire to deliver on that April 2023 ambition.
‘The reason it has taken longer than any of us would like it to is because in creating this we are and have developed an entirely new system and then we have to create an implementation programme as well; I’d love to have done it quicker.’
Pressed further, Mr Quince said: ‘The reason for any potential delay would only be around the consultation that we would need to have.’
Mr Quince earlier said the Government continues to work to improve HRT supplies.
He noted most HRT products ‘remain in good supply’, adding: ‘Various factors, including increased demand, has led to supply issues with a limited number. This has improved significantly recently and we’ve been working hard to ensure women can access the treatment they need.
‘We’re implementing the recommendations of the HRT supply taskforce and we’re also continuing to use serious shortage protocols where appropriate, but it’s something we keep under very close review.’