Free scripts for chronically ill axed
Plans to give free prescriptions to people with long-term conditions have been shelved in the government's Comprehensive Spending Review.
The review also ruled out proposals for a 1-week wait target for cancer diagnoses and one-to-one nursing for cancer patients.
The government confirmed it is ringfencing overall National Health Service (NHS) spending, increasing it by 0.4% in real terms over the Spending Review period, until 2015. But to deliver efficiency savings it is cutting the administration budget by a third and aims to improve workforce productivity.
Commenting on the announcement, Chairman of the Council at the British Medical Association (BMA) Dr Hamish Meldrum welcomed the pledge to protect health spending.
But he said the drive to find cost savings of £20 billion by 2014 is already resulting in cuts to services and staff and rationing of treatments, while the NHS continues to face the demands of an ageing population and rising costs of medicines and new technology.
Dr Meldrum added that remarks about increasing productivity were "worrying" given that NHS staff have already worked hard to reduce waiting times and improve quality of patient care.
"If the government is truly committed to reducing waste and inefficiency, their proposals for NHS reform should focus less on competition and more on a cooperative approach on delivering healthcare," he said.
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By Caroline Price