It is important to ensure that people with Parkinson's disease are able to access the necessary treatment to live a fulfilled and independent life.
There is already an extensive system of prescription charge exemptions in England. This includes provision for people on low incomes who can apply for free prescriptions through the NHS Low Income Scheme, or who get free prescriptions due to the receipt of certain benefits. The system of exemptions taken as a whole means that 90 per cent of prescription items are dispensed without charge. I know that the Government currently has no plans to make any amendments to the list of medical conditions which provide exemption from the prescription charge.
I know that the NHS is committed to improving care for people with long-term conditions such as Parkinson's disease. NHS England commissions the specialised elements of Parkinson's care that patients may receive from 25 specialised neurological treatment centres across England. I am aware that NHS England has published a service specification setting out what providers must have in place to deliver specialised neurological care. This supports equity of access to high quality services for patients wherever they live. Within these centres neurological multidisciplinary teams ensure patients can access a range of health professionals and that they can receive specialised treatment and support, according to their needs.
I am happy to note that the Government is implementing The Five Year Forward View for Mental Health, prioritises the expansion of access to psychological therapies services for those with long term conditions, such as Parkinson's, which will be integrated into easily accessible, existing primary or secondary care services. You may be pleased to hear that NHS England is working with the Neurological Alliance, to ensure that NHS England consistently meets the emotional, cognitive, and mental health needs of patients with neurological conditions, such as Parkinson's.
The aim of Personal Independence Payment (PIP) is to ensure support is focused on those with the greatest barrier to independence. The assessment of eligibility focuses on an individual's ability to carry out key everyday activities and will be easier to understand and administer.
PIP involves a more objective assessment, including a face-to-face consultation, to help target support at those who need it most. Should someone's condition change under PIP, the new system will ensure they will continue to the get the right award and reduce the capacity for over- and under-payments. The system has undergone extensive independent review, and the Government has accepted a number of recommendations for improving assessments. Where there is sufficient evidence to do so, a paper based assessment will be conducted without the need for the claimant to attend a face to face assessment.
I understand that the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has recently updated its guidance on the diagnosis, treatment and management of Parkinson's disease. These new guidelines will ensure that people with Parkinson's are able to access the best possible care and treatment in order to manage their condition effectively.