Campaigners against higher prescription charges have been dealt a blow after the government announced the cost will increase from £7.20 per item to £7.40 from April 1.
England is the only part of the UK which still charges for prescriptions after Scotland announced it will follow Wales and Northern Ireland by making them free from the start of next month, but the British Medical Association has been calling for charges to be scrapped altogether.
Under the new charges, an annual pre-payment certificate will remain at £104 but the cost of a three-month certificate will rise to £29.10.
The NHS in England receives more than £450 million a year from prescription charges, and the coalition government has now shelved a study into how costs for patients could be reduced which was ordered by the Labour administration.
The current system was described as “outdated and arbitrary” by professor Ian Gilmore, study author and former Royal College of Physicians president, who suggested all patients with long-term conditions lasting at least six months should be exempt from charges for three years.
After this time, Professor Gilmore’s report said patients could return to their GP to have the exemption period renewed, and suggested ministers should consider proposals to scrap prescription charges for everyone.
A Department of Health spokeswoman said the government is investing an extra £10.7 billion in the NHS and releasing £1.7 billion by cutting bureaucracy.
The Department of Health also announced that dental charges will rise, while charges for elastic stockings and tights, wigs and fabric supports supplied by hospitals will be also increase.
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