Politics

Prescription charges frozen as ministers wrestle with cost of living crisis

NHS prescription charges in England are to be frozen as pressure mounts on ministers to ease the cost of living crisis following the recent Tory bruising at the polls.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the levy, which normally rises in line with inflation, will be held at the same level this year to “put money back in people’s pockets”.

The freeze, which is the first in 12 years, will save patients £17m, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said.

It means the charge for a single prescription will stay at £9.35, while a three-month prescription prepayment certificate (PPC) remains at £30.25.

A 12-month PPC will stay at £108.10 and can be paid for in instalments.

Mr Javid said: “The rise in the cost of living has been unavoidable as we face global challenges and the repercussions of Putin’s illegal war in Ukraine.

“Whilst we can’t completely prevent these rises, where we can help we absolutely will.

“This is why I am freezing prescription charges to help ease some of these pressures and put money back in people’s pockets.”

The measure comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson told ministers to come up with initiatives to reduce the pressure on family budgets caused by soaring global prices.

Following the Queen’s Speech on Tuesday, the prime minister chaired the first meeting of the government’s cost of living committee.

He urged ministers to be as “creative as possible” in coming up with ideas to help hard-pressed families which would not require fresh Treasury funding.

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The DHSC has already said it will delay a ban on supermarketbuy-one-get-one-free junk food offers, sparking concern among health campaigners.

Mr Johnson, meanwhile, has told ministers to draw up plans to cut 90,000 civil service jobs over the next three years, taking the workforce back down to where it was before the coronavirus pandemic.

But with the Bank of England forecasting that inflation this year will reach double digits, the government is likely to remain under pressure to go further.

After the Conservatives lost nearly 500 seats in the local council elections, some Tories have been calling for tax cuts as the only way to deliver real help to those who are struggling.

Meanwhile, ministers have been resisting demands for a windfall tax on the profits of the energy companies which have been swollen by rising oil and gas prices, warning of the impact on investment in new “green” technologies.

However, in a sign their opposition may be weakening, Mr Johnson said the government will “have to look at it” while Chancellor Rishi Sunak said he would be “pragmatic”.

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