Cancer patients eligible to apply for free prescriptions

In collaboration with the Press Association

People in England who are being treated for cancer can now apply for free NHS prescriptions which will be available from April 1st.

The scheme, which was announced by prime minister Gordon Brown last September, should benefit up to 150,000 people who are undergoing treatment for cancer, the effects of cancer or the effects of cancer treatment.

Individuals could save as much as each year in prescription charges and the five-year exemption certificate - which can be renewed as many times as necessary - covers all of their prescriptions, not just those relating to cancer.

- Catherine Foot, head of policy development, Cancer Research UK

Patients can collect an application form at their GP surgery or oncology clinic, which needs to be countersigned by their GP, hospital doctor or service doctor and received by March 24th in order to be processed in time for April 1st.

However, those who do not submit their application form in time may be able to seek a refund for any prescriptions they pay for after April 1st.

Public health minister Dawn Primarolo said that the new scheme would give people with cancer one less thing to worry about.

"Everyone undergoing treatment for cancer, the effects of cancer, or the effects of cancer treatment is entitled to free prescriptions from April 1st," she confirmed. "I would urge patients to make an appointment with their GP this week to talk about applying for their exemption certificate."

Catherine Foot, Cancer Research UK's head of policy development, said: "We're really pleased to see that patients are now being invited to apply for free prescriptions and urge them to register as soon as possible.

"Free prescriptions for patients will help reduce the financial burden for the tens of thousands of people who struggle with the heavy cost of having cancer."

The scheme is ultimately expected to benefit around five million patients as the government intends to extend it to include all patients with long-term conditions.