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Prescription prices increase

NHS prescription, dental and optical charges in England are set to increase from April 1 this year

NHS prescription, dental and optical charges in England are set to increase from April 1 this year.

Charges for single prescriptions are due to rise by 10 pence to £7.10, while the cost of a 12-month pre-payment certificate (PPC), which aims to reduce the cost for patients requiring multiple prescription items in a year, will rise by £1.50. A basic check-up at the dentist will cost 30 pence more and intermediate treatments such as fillings and extractions will increase by £1 to £45.60. Optical vouchers, which assist with the cost of glasses and lenses for children and those on low incomes, will also increase.

The British Medical Association (BMA) has called for the abolition of all prescription charges, which would see England following the example of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

A slight change to the prescriptions policy from April allows cancer patients to receive free prescriptions for all treatments, whether or not they are related to their cancer.

Currently, only 11 per cent of prescriptions attract a charge. The BMA argues that the current system is outdated and that prescription charges can act as a disincentive to taking essential medication therefore having a financial impact on hospital admissions and the rate at which people return to work.

Commenting on the exemption for cancer patients and people with other long-term conditions, Dr Hamish Meldrum, chairman of council at the BMA, said: "Making the list of exemptions longer will not make it fairer. Ultimately, we could end up with a situation where only a tiny proportion of prescriptions attract a charge, which would be nonsensical.

"Abolishing prescription charges altogether is the fairest and the simplest option," he continued.

The government is to carry out a review of prescription charging and will take into account the views of patients, the public, patient representative bodies, clinicians and healthcare organisations.

5th March 2009

From: Healthcare

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