Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Prescription charges should go

15 May, 2007

Sinn Féin Mid Ulster MLA Michelle O'Neill, the Vice Chair of the Assembly Health Committee has said that Prescription charges act as a barrier to people accessing the medicines they need.

In her maiden speech to the Assembly Ms O'Neill said:

"Sinn Féin is determined to create a society where inequalities in health are eradicated and to this end Sinn Féin launched its campaign for free prescriptions for all, over a year ago, a campaign that we brought to most councils in the north and received universal backing.

"Sinn Féin notes that the graduated abolishment of prescription charges over one term, was in the UUP manifesto and we will support the current Minister for Health in achieving this worthy goal.

"Prescription charges should be redundant in terms of a health service that is supposed to free at the point of delivery. The current cost of a prescription at almost £7.00 per item has the detrimental effect of excluding many people from receiving the correct medical treatment.

"People on low incomes can not access medications they need. This cannot be allowed to continue and must end now.

"We recognise that, like Wales, this may take a term to implement but in the interim we would urge the Minister to go the extra mile and adopt the recommendations made by Sinn Féin in 2006 in relation to the current list of chronic conditions which qualify for exemption.

"This list of chronic conditions, compiled in 1968, is no longer fit for purpose and must be modernised

"There have been marvellous advances in pharmacology in the forty years since the exemption list was compiled and we would urge the minister to immediately widen the exemption list to include long term conditions such as Asthma, Arthritis, Cancers, Multiple Sclerosis, HIV, and Schizophrenia to name but a few.

"We need a more consistent approach for patients requiring repeat prescriptions for long term medical conditions.

"The disparity associated with an outdated exemption list needs to be addressed as soon as possible.

"The National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux in their report titled 'Unhealthy Charge' has found that over two thirds of those with long term health problems found difficulty in meeting prescription charges.

"This has adverse impacts on the individual's health and also raises costs elsewhere in the health system due to increased hospital admissions and appointments." ENDS

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