My right honourable friend the Minister of State, Department of Health (Dawn Primarolo) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
The Government had previously announced their intention to hold a consultation on prescription charges (Official Report, Commons, 23 July 2007, col. 44WS), subject to any changes to the system being cost neutral for the NHS.
Many representations have been received from patients and their representative groups about the current system of prescription charging—some calling for extension of the list of medical exemptions, others for the abolition of charges. Having listened to these representations, we have decided to move away from the constraint of cost neutrality. The Government have, therefore, decided to exempt cancer patients from prescription charges with effect from 1 April 2009 and will move towards exempting patients with long-term conditions over the next few years.
These changes are an additional cost to the NHS, which the Government believe is necessary to ensure that we remove concerns about affordability of medicines for patients who rely on their medicines to allow them to continue their day-to-day activities.
The Government will also establish a review of prescription charges, led by Professor Ian Gilmore, President of the Royal College of Physicians. We have asked Professor Gilmore to report to Ministers in summer 2009, taking into account the views of patients, the public, patient representative bodies, clinicians and healthcare organisations on effective implementation to exempt those with long-term conditions.