An internal review of prescription charges was undertaken by departmental officials, in conjunction with HM Treasury, as part of the formulation of Government policy for the 1998 comprehensive spending review. This work fed into the outcome of the comprehensive spending review which was published by HM Treasury. No changes were made to the charging arrangements as a result.
The Government are undertaking a review of prescription charges and will report the outcome of this review by the summer recess 2007. This review will include options to:
revise the list of medical exemptions to prescription charges;
introduce a flat rate prescription charge with no exemptions; and
base exemption to prescription charges solely on income.
These options will be considered on the basis that any changes to prescription charge exemptions, if implemented, are cost-neutral for the national health service.
The Government do not agree that it would be appropriate to abolish prescription charges as this would reduce, by some £430 million, the money available to deliver health priorities.
The Government's policy on entitlement to help with prescription charges in England is based on the principle that those who can afford to contribute should do so, while those who are likely to have difficulty in paying should be protected. Consequently 87 per cent. of prescriptions in England are dispensed free of charge.