Exclusive: Free prescription review 'may run out of time'

Plans to scrap prescription charges for long-term conditions may fall by the wayside in the build-up to next year's general election, an Asthma UK spokesman has warned.

Asthma UK has called on the government to draft legislation to abolish prescription charges for people with long-term conditions

Last year, prime minister Gordon Brown revealed that prescription charge exemptions were planned for patients with long-term conditions. The DoH asked Royal College of Physicians' president Professor Ian Gilmore to lead a review into how exemptions could work. Professor Gilmore's review has yet to be published, however.

Asthma UK is leading the Prescription Charges Coalition, a group of organisations campaigning for the government to abolish prescription charges for people with long-term conditions. The charity's director of policy and public affairs, Mikis Euripides, told Healthcare Republic that the government needs to publish Professor Gilmore's review and details of its plans early in 2010 if the changes are to take place.

‘The government will need to introduce legislation,' he said. 'Assuming there is a May general election, it will need to do that by February because of the time it will take. We are concerned that if nothing happens, the government won't have enough time.' If the election were earlier than May, it would already be too late to put legislation through, he added.

If the government does not draft legislation in time, there may still be a commitment in the Labour Party manifesto. However, any commitment would need to stick to Mr Brown's original commitment to be fair, he said.

Mr Euripides said that the Liberal Democrats might commit to scrapping prescription charges.

But he said he would be ‘shocked' if the Conservatives made any such commitment. Despite the savings to be made in the long-term any such commitment would be associated with short-term costs, he pointed out. ‘The best you could expect is something about a commitment to review the system.'



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