We have asked the President of the Royal College of Physicians (Professor Ian Gilmore) to carry out a review of prescription charges that will consider how to implement the commitment to exempt patients with long-term conditions from prescription charges. The review is in its initial stages and is due to make its recommendations to ministers in summer 2009. The terms of reference for the review are to:
consider how to implement the Government's commitment to exempt patients with long-term conditions (LTCs) from prescription charges over the next few years following the exemption for cancer patients, which will be introduced in 2009;
engage with patients and their representatives, clinicians, the public, health care organisations and other interested groups to ensure the widest range of views contribute to the review's findings;
consider how to define the range of long-term conditions affecting patients that should be exempted from prescription charges; and
consider how exemption from charging can be best phased in, with due regard to what is in the best interests of patients, the potential impact on the wider health care system, implications for existing policies on management of long term conditions, implications for public expenditure.
The Department does not know the number of prescriptions that have been issued, only the number of prescription items dispensed.
Prescription information taken from the Prescription Cost Analysis system, supplied by the Prescription Pricing Division of the NHS Business Services Authority, indicate that in 2007 a total of 11.4 per cent. of prescription items (90.8 million) dispensed in England attracted a charge. Of these, 7.1 per cent. of prescription items (56.7 million) were charged at the point of dispensing and 4.3 per cent. of prescription items (34.1 million) were attributable to pre-payment certificates.