'This is a welcome move. The current system is confusing, unfair and illogical - today's announcement by the Prime Minister will help some of the most vulnerable patients with cancer and eventually those with other long-term conditions.
'The moves in Scotland and Wales towards free prescription charges have clearly piled on the political pressure on the government in England to act, although it is worth remembering that even in England most patients don't have to pay these charges - about 88 per cent of prescriptions dispensed are exempt.
'We need to see the details of today's announcement. The government is undertaking a wider review and if we are going to retain charges in England ministers must produce a whole system reform to create something that is clearer, fairer and more rational.'
On reforming the funding of social care in England The King's Fund Chief Executive, Niall Dickson, added:
'The Prime Minister's renewed commitment to fundamental reform is good news. This is one of the great challenges facing any government over the next twenty years - the task now is to turn goodwill into firm proposals and to secure a political consensus that will deliver long term reform. That will not be easy.’
Notes to editors:
- For further information or interviews, please contact The King’s Fund press and public affairs office on 07831 554927. An ISDN line is available for interviews on 020 7637 0185.
- The King’s Fund seeks to understand how the health system in England can be improved. Using that insight, we help shape policy, transform services and bring about behaviour change. Our work includes research, analysis, developing leaders and improving services. We also offer a wide range of resources to help everyone working in health share knowledge, learning and ideas.
- 'In 2006, less than 7 per cent of prescription items dispensed in the community in England were charged to patients at the point of dispensing, with a further 5 per cent of items dispensed to patients who had brought prepayment certificates.' Source: DH press release March 2008