The 25p rise in prescription charges is the largest in the past decade and matches the rise seen implemented in April 2008.
In all other UK countries NHS prescriptions remain free of charge. Wales scrapped prescription charges in 2007, Northern Ireland did so in 2010 and Scotland removed charges last year.
GPs in Scotland have warned of rising workload since the charges were removed a year ago.
In Northern Ireland, the reintroduction of prescription charges is under consideration. The Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety believes the move could raise revenue, maintain services and support new treatments and access to specialist drugs. The government has suggested that some form of administrative or other fee relating to the receipt of prescriptions could be introduced.
The BMA believes prescription charges in England should be abolished. Commenting on this year’s rise in charges, BMA chairman Dr Hamish Meldrum said the current system was ‘a chaotic and unfair mess’.
‘The government should not be increasing prescription charges; it should be following the lead set by the three other nations in the UK and making plans to abolish them,’ he said.
He added: ‘Patients with disabling long-term conditions still have to pay them despite a recent report recommending they be phased out. Most importantly, the principle of charging for prescriptions runs counter to the founding principle of an NHS that is free at the point of use.
‘The BMA understands that we live in financially difficult times, but this is a tax on the sick that contributes only a modest amount to the NHS is budget and does not offset the unfair disadvantage of asking the ill to pay for their medicine.’
In England, prices for three- and 12-month prescription pre-payment certificates remain unchanged.