NHS prescription fees in England are to be frozen as pressure mounts on ministers to ease the cost of living crisis following recent Tory bruises at the ballot box.
health secretary Sajid Javid said the levy, which normally increases with inflation, will be kept 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 £17million, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has said.
This means the fee for a single prescription will remain at £9.35, while a three month Prepaid Prescription Certificate (PPC) will remain at £30.25.
A 12 month PPC will remain at £108.10 and can be paid for in instalments.
Mr Javid said: “The rising cost of living is inevitable as we face global challenges and the repercussions of Putin’s illegal war in Ukraine.
“While we cannot completely prevent these increases, where we can help, we absolutely will.
“That’s why I’m freezing dispensing fees to help ease some of those pressures and put money back in people’s pockets.”
The measure comes after the Prime Minister Boris Johnson asked ministers to propose initiatives to reduce the pressure on family budgets caused by soaring world prices.
After 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 struggling families that would not require new Treasury funds.
Fears that rising costs are accelerating the mental health crisis
Why some countries have lower energy bills than the UK
The DHSC has already said that it will delaying a ban on junk food buy-in-one offers in supermarkets; causing concern among health activists.
Mr Johnson, meanwhile, has asked ministers to draft plans to cut 90,000 civil service jobs over the next three years, bringing the workforce back to where it was before the coronavirus pandemic.
But with the Bank of England Forexpecting inflation to hit double digits this year, the government is likely to remain under pressure to go further.
After the The Conservatives lost nearly 500 seats in local council elections, some Tories have called for tax cuts as the only way to provide real help to those struggling.
Meanwhile, ministers have resisted demands for a windfall tax on energy company profits which have been inflated by rising oil and gas prices, warning of the impact on investment in new technology “green”.
However, in a sign that their opposition may be weakening, Mr Johnson said the government ‘should think about it’ while Chancellor Rishi Sunak said he would be ‘pragmatic’.