Prescription charges scrapped in NI30th September 2008
Northern Ireland's Health Minister has said prescription fees will be abolished by April 2010.
At the Cancer Centre in Belfast City Hospital, UUP minister Michael McGimpsey said that fees in Northern Ireland would drop to £3 per scrip by January 2009 and would be free by April the following year.
Prescription charges in Wales were scrapped last year and plans to abolish them in Scotland are going ahead. England remains the last country in the UK to retain the charges.
Mr McGimpsey said that in making the plans he had to "carefully consider the consequences of any change to the current charging regime in Northern Ireland".
He said he had to think carefully about "the loss of around £13m income each year from prescription charges, and while it is only 3.5% of the total drugs bill, it is still a lot of money."
"After looking closely at the financial position with my officials, I have concluded that the cost of free prescriptions can be found within my existing budget and without impacting on any existing service."
Iris Robinson, DUP, chair of the Health Committee said the announcement was welcome, although she expressed disappointment that fees for cancer drugs were not being scrapped straight away.
Dr Brian Dunn of the British Medical Association (BMA) Northern Ireland called the announcement a "very positive step forward".
He added that the BMA supported the decision, as would all patients who had found it difficult to pay for the costs of their medication.
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Title: Prescription charges scrapped in NI
Author: Jess Laurence
Article Id: 8549
Date Added: 30th Sep 2008