Prescription charges: to be or not to be?
Posted Friday 28 May 2010
With all of yesterday's news focussing on welfare reform and leaky oil wells, you’d have been hard-pressed to notice the long-awaited publication of the Gilmore report. The Gilmore report? Well, if you have a long-term health condition and fancy free prescriptions, this is a pretty important document.
I’m sure that many of you will be aware that Mind, as a member of the Prescription Charges Coalition, is campaigning for an abolition of prescription charges for people with long-term conditions. This is because the current situation simply isn’t working. Every year 800,000 people in England fail to get some or all of their prescriptions because they simply cannot afford the cost. The current system means that the more sick a person is, the more they will have to pay, and those with long-term conditions are hit the hardest.
Our campaign received a boost back in 2008 when the then prime minister Gordon Brown announced plans to expand the eligibility criteria for access to prescriptions free-of-charge. He commissioned Professor Ian Gilmore, president of the Royal College of Physicians, to have a look at which groups of patients should get free prescriptions, and how the government should go about making this happen.
That report has finally been published, and it makes a key recommendation: patients should not have to pay for their prescriptions if they have a long-term health condition that will persist for a period of at least six months.
Great news, but unfortunately things are never that simple. The government is under no obligation to implement the recommendations of this review, or any other review for that matter. In a written ministerial statement on the report, Health Minister Simon Burns MP said that any decision on the introduction of free prescription charges will have to wait until the major review of government spending due in the autumn. So, it's neither a 'yes' or a 'no', but a 'wait and see'.
What next? Well, Mind will continue to work with the coalition to persuade the new government to implement Professor Gilmore’s recommendations. It will be hard work, given the current economic climate. But you can help by writing to your MP or joining our facebook cause group. You can find out to do this and see all the details of our campaign here.
Colin Walker, Policy and Campaigns Manager, Mind
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