The government should implement its commitment on prescription charges – without delay

To Anne Snelgrove, MP and Michael Wills, MP from Swindon TUC

I was concerned to read in yesterday’s Observer that the government appears to be delaying the implementation of its commitment to abolish prescription charges for ‘long-term conditions’. According to the article the Gilmore report, which was expected to be published in the summer, has been completed but the government has held up publication. As you know we support the abolition of all prescription charges in all of the UK. However, having made this specific commitment (which falls short of that) the government should stick to it.

We can speculate on why the Gilmore Report has not been published (it would cost too much?) but the remit which he was given was difficult to say the least. In effect he was asked to create a hierarchy of diseases with a time table to phase out charges over time. Who is to say one illness should be exempted and another not, and which one is exempted before another?

The government’s commitment on long-term illness was based on how much money would be saved from the NHS drugs budget as a result of the Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme. According to an Early Day Motion signed by 172 MPs the saving for 2010 is expected to be £550 million. In fact this would be more than enough to cover the loss of monies raised by prescription charges if they were abolished completely.

I would be grateful if you could clarify why the Gilmore Report has been delayed, and the government’s intention with regard to its commitment. We would call on you to press the government at least to implement its commitment on long-term conditions without delay.

Regards

Martin Wicks
Secretary Swindon TUC

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