The NHS announced last week that prescription charges in England are to go up from £7.10 to £7.20, despite calls for the charge to be abolished altogether. The plans were met with anger from patients and doctors.
- Why is this a big story?
England is currently the only country in the UK with no plans to abolish the charges. Prescriptions are free in Wales and will be free in Northern Ireland by 2010 and in Scotland by 2011. The British Medical Association (BMA) asked the Government to abolish charges on Thursday - just hours before the NHS announced the price rise.
- What is the BMA's argument?
The BMA believes the current system is 'outdated, iniquitous, and detrimental to the health of patients'.
- What is the Government's defence?
Ministers point out abolishing charges would create a £400m shortfall in the budget and people being treated for cancer will be exempt from the charges.
- Media coverage
The Daily Mirror ran the story with the headline: 'After free prescription calls... charges UP again'. The Daily Express wrote: 'Prescriptions up again - if you are English'.
- PR support
The BMA's internal press office promoted its plans to abolish charges before the price rise. The Department of Health's in-house team was responsible for releasing information about the new costings.
89% - Prescription items given for free in England
150k - Cancer patients will benefit from prescription changes