Northern Ireland to abolish prescription charges – when will England follow?

SwindonTUC Press Release 29th September 2008


Northern Ireland to abolish prescription charges – when will England follow?


News emerged today that Northern Ireland is to abolish NHS prescription charges. They will be reduced to £3 from January 2009 and will then be free by April 2010.


This decision leaves England the only country in the UK with prescription charges still in place and or not being phased out.


Swindon TUC Secretary Martin Wicks commented:


“This decision to phase out prescription charges in Northern Ireland means that only England will maintain prescription charges. Brown’s decision to free cancer patients of the burden of paying for their cocktail of drugs wasn’t overly generous – it only costs £20 million a year.


The government’s pledge in relation to prescription charges for those with chronic illness – the bulk of people who pay – is dependent on the amount of money saved from the NHS drugs bill.


The decision of the Northern Ireland assembly means that three of the four countries which comprise the UK have abolished or are in the process of abolishing prescription charges for everybody.


It would be illogical to maintain the charge for England alone and for a decreasing number of people.


Astronomical sums have been found to bail out the banks, yet all it would require to abolish prescription charges for England would be £430 million per year (the sum of estimated receipts this year).


The government likes to talk about health care being “free at the point of need”, but so long as prescription charges remain it is not true.


The campaign for complete abolition needs to continue until the government acts so that healthcare is “free at the point of need” for everybody.”


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For further comment ring Martin Wicks on 07786 394593


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