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English prescription charges become political target

This article was originally published in Scrip

Executive Summary

The UK's governing Labour party is proposing to use savings from the national drugs budget to eliminate the prescription charges that some patients pay for medicines. Gordon Brown, the prime minister, told a party conference that cancer patients would no longer pay such charges from next year, currently £7.10 per prescription or £102.50 annually. "As over the next few years the national health service generates cash savings in its drugs budget we will plough savings back into abolishing charges for all patients with long-term conditions," he added. His plan would apply only to the NHS in England; the Welsh regional government has already abolished prescription charges and the Scottish Executive is phasing them out. Old people and others receiving social assistance in England are already exempted from paying the charges. The Labour party is much weaker than the Conservative opposition in opinion polls, but an election is not required until 2010.

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