Prescription charges for NHS medication will be abolished in England under a Labour government, the shadow health secretary has pledged.
Speaking over the weekend at the annual Labour party conference, Jonathan Ashworth said patients should be able to access medication as soon as it is required. He added the NHS could save £20m a year if the £9 charge was abolished for only Parkison’s disease and inflammatory bowel disease.
Mr Ashworth said: ‘Tackling widening health inequalities will be an absolute priority of the next Labour government.
‘Labour made prescriptions free for people with cancer in 2008. The Tories have done nothing and exempt conditions have been otherwise unchanged for 50 years.
‘People with Addison’s disease, chronic kidney disease, strokes, heart failure and a host of other long-term conditions must still pay for their medicine.
‘In government, Labour will simply make all prescriptions free of charge.”
Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, added it is ‘simple common sense’ to replicate in England what is already the norm in the rest of the UK.
The BMA welcomed the announcement.
BMA GP Committee’s executive lead on clinical and prescribing issues, Dr Farah Jameel, said: ’The BMA has repeatedly called for prescription costs to be abolished. Prescription charges can be a huge expense, particularly for patients living with long-term conditions, so getting rid of them will mean more people are able to take the medication they need without having to worry about how they make ends meet or choose between paying a bill and buying food or paying for their prescription.
‘It will have a direct positive impact on improving their health, making them less likely to need further GP or hospital care or be at risk of worsening health. This in turn, reduces the overall cost to the NHS in England.’
It follows the news that almost half of asthma patients skip medication because of prescription charges.