Balliol JCR has passed a motion in favour of reimbursing prescriptions charges for all undergraduates as of Hilary term. The scheme will be paid for through a £1.50 termly levy.

The motion noted that the current prescription charge in England is set at £8.20 and that the majority of students in the JCR are over 18. As a result, there are students ineligible for free prescriptions unless they are on the NHS low income scheme.

Although students may qualify for help with healthcare costs through the NHS Low Income Scheme (LIS), the complex application process, the motion said, acts as a barrier for disabled students in conjunction with the intensity and stress of Oxford terms. Under the LIS scheme, patients can receive ‘full help’ (HC2 certificate) or ‘partial help’ (HC3 certificate), depending on the individual’s financial circumstances.

The JCR noted that while Prescription Prepayment Certificates (PPCs) can reduce prescription charge costs, they still represent a challenging financial burden.

Caitlin Tickell, who proposed the motion, commented, “There are many different reasons that a student may not receive low-income support but still be unable to afford prescriptions, and we wanted to remove barriers to accessing healthcare for our students, especially those with longer-term health problems as the financial burden may otherwise prevent them receiving treatment.”

Balliol JCR further noted that prescription charges often force students to choose between medication and other living costs and are therefore a barrier to healthcare. The JCR stated that disabled students already face unique and unheeded challenges including hidden fees that accompany attending university, and that these additional charges for basic necessities are unfair.

Aisha Simon, Balliol JCR Vice-President, told Cherwell, “This is also of benefit to students who may prefer not to disclose their condition to their families, but would otherwise be unable to pay for their prescriptions. We believe that this will make students’ lives easier, especially those who already face significant hurdles, and that can only be a good thing.”

The JCR has resolved to mandate the Disabled Students’ Officer to reimburse prescription charges and PPCs for all members of the JCR. The Disabled Students’ Officer will be required to make information more accessible about the NHS Low Income Scheme, including assisting students who may wish to apply.

Duncan Shepherd, Balliol’s JCR President, told Cherwell, “As it stands, the system places an unfair burden on students with conditions that require multiple (expensive) prescriptions, whether that’s students with mental health problems or asthma, and we feel that a £1.50 levy is a low cost to improve the lives of those students.”

The motion follows a similar move by Wadham SU which passed in Trinity 2015. Wadham SU President, Taisie Tsikas, added, “Prescription charges are a problem because they turn healthcare into a privilege when it should be treated as a right… Disability is a liberation issue and it would be amazing to see other colleges put similar schemes in place.”