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Sinn Féin urge for 'one small step' initiatives to advance the delivery of Health

2 November, 2005

Sinn Féin health spokesperson, Upper Bann MLA John O'Dowd, has called for the phasing out prescription charges in the North.

Mr O'Dowd said:

"I have urged direct rule Health Ministers to follow the example set by the Welsh Assembly and to phase out prescription charges here in the Six Counties. In terms of the size of the overall health budget in the North, the amount raised through prescription charges does not represent a major income. Yet, the reality is that these charges can in themselves be a barrier to proper healthcare.

"Sadly they ruled out any such move despite the fact that there are potentially massive savings from the so-called security budget here in the North, that could release ample resources to allow the British Government to abolish prescription charges and make a positive contribution to overall healthcare in the Six Counties.

"As local politicians we should be making these decisions, whether it is a DUP or a Sinn Féin Health Minister this is just one small step in terms of Health that our own Executive could be making. The Peace dividend negotiated by Sinn Féin and DUP during the talks of December 2004 could be put to constructive use in the field of health. Is the DUP up to that challenge?

"As local politicians we should be looking at initiatives that encourage people to look after their health such as removing prescription charges. Indeed, in the case of people who may have to take several different types of medication, prescription charges may prevent people from doing so because of the cumulative cost of having to pay for several items at once. In such instances, this only leads to an increased burden on the health service later on through possible deterioration of the person's condition or even prolonged hospital treatment." ENDS

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