NI joins Wales in ending prescription charge

Northern Ireland is to join Wales in scrapping prescription charges for all NHS patients by the end of the decade.

Health minister Michael McGimpsey announced yesterday that free prescriptions would be available to everyone in Northern Ireland by 2010.

UK countries split on prescription charge policy last year with Wales abolishing charges completely and Scotland waiving the fee for those with chronic conditions. Patients in England will continue to pay the £7.10 fee, although Gordon Brown recently announced cancer patients would be exempt and eventually patients with long-term conditions.

Dr Brian Dunn, NI GPC chairman, said: ‘This is a very positive step forward and all those patients in Northern Ireland who have found it very hard over the years to pay for their medication will welcome it - as does the BMA. It has been the association’s policy, since 2002, that prescriptions should be free to everyone.'

tom.ireland@haymarket.com

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