I have recently been contacted regarding prescription charges in England for people with long-term conditions.
I understand many people will be disappointed that the Government decided to increase prescription charges again, to £8.40 from April 2016. I also appreciate that for people with long-term medical conditions prescription charges can impose a considerable cost.
As I am sure you are aware, a report from the Prescription Charges Coalition (Paying the Price: Prescription Charges and People with Long-Term Conditions), published in March 2013, set out the impact of the squeeze on living standards on patients with long-term conditions and I am very concerned by the report's findings that some patients do not collect some prescription items because of cost.
The previous Labour Government pledged to abolish charges for all patients with long-term conditions and in 2008, commissioned Professor Ian Gilmore (then President of the Royal College of Physicians) to carry out a review on how best to implement exemptions for people with long-term conditions.
However, during the last Parliament, the Coalition Government announced in October 2010 that the proposals to extend free prescriptions to all those with long-term conditions would not be implemented.
The medical exemptions list is there to make sure that those with certain medical conditions are exempt from charges, and cancer patients were added to this list in 2009 after the previous Labour Government had abolished prescription charges for all cancer patients.
I am aware that the Prescription Charges Coalition has raised a number of points about the medical exemption list and has also called for there to be a review of this. The current Government has stated, however, that it has "no plans" to change the medical exemption list.
While prescriptions are available free of charge to many people, it is important that the prescription charge remains fair and affordable for those that do have to pay.