Prescription charges scrapped in Northern Ireland and cut to £3 in Scotland

Prescription charges were abolished on Thursday in Northern Ireland and cut to £3 in Scotland.

But charges in England have remained at £7.20 for 2010/11 with no changes to age-exemption criteria, health minister Mike O'Brien announced last week.

Northern Ireland health minister Michael McGimpsey said the introduction of free scrips was the end of ‘a tax on illness'.

‘Charging people for vital medication is totally against the principles of a health service that is free at the point of use,' he said.

The cost of abolishing prescription charges would be accommodated from within the existing health budget and no existing services would be affected by this decision, he added.

Northern Ireland GPC chairman Dr Brian Dunn said that GPs had seen first hand how patients had to contend with the inequalities of the previous charging system. ‘I will now be able to write prescriptions in the knowledge that cost won't be a factor in preventing patients from taking their medicines,' he said.

In Scotland, the cost of prepayment certificates has also been cut, from £13 to £10 for a four-month certificate and from £38 to £21 for a 12-month certificate.

Prescriptions charges were scrapped in Wales in 2007.

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