Charities slam DoH failure to cut prescription charge

England is only UK country to maintain charges.

The government's failure to overhaul prescription charges in England is a 'missed opportunity', a group of 20 charities has said.

BMA leaders have repeatedly called for prescription charges to be abolished. The fees were abolished in Northern Ireland last week and cut to £3 in Scotland, where they will be scrapped next year.

But prescription charges will remain at £7.20 in England for 2010/11 and the government has still not published its report into how free prescriptions for patients with long-term conditions will be introduced.

The Prescription Charges Coalition represents charities campaigning for the government to abolish prescription charges for people with long-term conditions.

Neil Churchill, Asthma UK chief executive and chairman of the coalition, said the group was 'very disappointed' that the government had failed to release the report.

The coalition is calling on all political parties to commit to introducing free prescriptions for people with long-term conditions in England. The group said the government had missed an opportunity to cut charges in the Budget, calling its freezing of charges a 'cursory gesture'.

Northern Ireland health minister Michael McGimpsey has said the cost of abolishing prescription charges in Northern Ireland would be accommodated from within the existing health budget and that no existing services will be affected.

Northern Ireland GPC chairman Dr Brian Dunn said that GPs had seen first hand how patients had to contend with the inequalities of the previous charging system.

'I will now be able to write prescriptions in the knowledge that cost won't be a factor in preventing patients from taking their medicines,' he said.

Charges were abolished in Wales in 2007. The Welsh Assembly government published a review last week to show how dropping prescription charges helped improve the health of people in Wales.

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