Health and Social Care – in the House of Commons on 7th March 2023.
What steps he is taking to help reduce the cost of hormone replacement therapy for people with menopause symptoms.
This is a great opportunity to remind the House that, from
Although these cost reductions are welcome, England is still the only UK nation not to offer free prescriptions. Instead, the UK Government are penalising those who are experiencing menopause who need these medications to improve their symptoms. Will the Minister not consider following Scotland’s lead and scrap prescription charges to better provide accessible menopause support?
I remind the hon. Lady that about 60% of women in England who are on hormone replacement therapy are already exempt from prescription charges, but we are reducing the cost by hundreds of pounds a year for the remaining women who do pay. We respect the Scottish Government’s decision to provide free prescriptions, but it would cost us in England £651 million a year to provide free paracetamol to millionaires and we do not think that is the best use of taxpayer money.
With International Women’s Day tomorrow, I want to pay tribute to the menopause warriors—all the amazing individual women and organisations who have forced this issue up the agenda, including my hon. Friend Carolyn Harris. It was her private Member’s Bill that made Ministers finally agree to cut the cost of HRT prescriptions, but questions remain. Will all products that help with menopause symptoms be eligible for the prescription prepayment scheme? What are Ministers doing to end the ongoing and unacceptable shortages in HRT that are causing women such anxiety, and if this issue is such a priority for the Government, why has not the menopause taskforce met since June last year—let me warn the Minister, the warriors do not want to wait?
It is a shame that, on International Women’s Day, the shadow Minister cannot welcome the progress we are making on the menopause. Labour could have done this. We are the first Government to reduce the cost of HRT for women. [Interruption.] The shadow Secretary of State, Wes Streeting, wants to listen because this is important for women. All licensed HRT products will be available on the prepayment certificate. On the issue of shortages, over 70 products are available to women. Last year, 19 of them were facing a shortage. Thanks to the work of this Government, that is down to five products, and Utrogestan, a product widely used by women, is now back in stock and is being distributed to pharmacies. We are passionate about making HRT more available. There has been a 50% increase in the number of women getting HRT prescriptions. That is a tremendous success for women and we are reducing the cost.