Free prescriptions

The Belfast Telegraph say they have a campaign to abolish prescription charges. They and the Alliance are calling on Michael McGimpsey to do so. Of course he would be trying to anyway, as it was a manifesto commitment (PDF, page 8, no mentioned by the Bel Tel or Alliance)

  • Belfast Gonzo
  • Michael Shilliday

    My mistake!

  • againstthehead

    do we not get enough handouts? how exactly is the executive going to pay for all these ‘promises’. No water rates, no increase in household rates, no prescitpion charges etc etc etc.
    Flippin heck, every man and his dog will want to live in Nortern Ireland!!

    Most people on multiple meds are already exempt from charges, and those that arn’t can purchase annual pre-payments for less than a 100 quid (or 4 nights on the beers). NB our neighbours over the border pay just to say hello to the Dr, never might getting a tablet or 2.

    How about fosusing on the real matters – than ‘vote winners’. Sort out corperation tax and we might make some progress…

  • Barbara

    €20 for a note to say I was fit to go to the gym.

    Also I would worry that too many prescriptions would be given out.

  • IJP

    Wrong twice, in fact.

    The Opposition Group Assembly motion calls for a “cost/benefit” analysis of introducing Free Prescription charges, not for their introduction.

    It is important the principle of a free health service (and therefore free prescriptions) is established. However, such an analysis may conclude that at this stage there are other priorities ahead of free prescriptions. If it does, the Minister is pledged to ignore it and proceed with free prescriptions anyway while people wait on trolleys, can’t locate ambulances and pensioners continue to pay £30 just to see a dentist.

    Government without priorities is bad government.

  • pondersomething

    “Flippin heck, every man and his dog will want to live in Nortern Ireland!!”

    Great – that would do our economy a lot of good!

    Seriously though, Northern Ireland is already ahead of the Republic in terms of the quality of its public services and it should be looking to build upon this and create a truly fair and just society, and not just a place where money and the rat race are all that matters.

    If we succeed that would be something for everyone here to take pride in. A fairer, more just society would also be the best basis on which to build a shared society between the two traditions, essential if the province is to move forward in any meaningful way.

    The UUP for it’s part has committed itself in its Manifesto to work for not only Free Prescriptions, but also Free Personal Care for the Elderly and universal childcare – many of the other parties have put forward other imaginative proposals so the potential is there for this power-sharing devolved government to really change things for the better.

  • Animus

    Wales has already introduced free prescriptions, although this is a recent innovation, so not enough time has elapsed to study how it’s worked in detail.

    I would support free personal care and universal childcare more readily than free prescriptions. Considering prescriptions are already subsidised (children’s are free), I’m happy to pay for mine, but this may be because I infrequently need a script. I would be willing to pay more if it meant that people with serious illnesses who need multiple prescriptions might benefit.

  • Porlock

    There is no such thing as “free” health care, or prescriptions or anything else for that matter.

    It is all funded by the taxpayer, with higher earners like myself and Mrs.P stumping up much more than the average income earner.

    Fine by me, to a limited extent. But I still have private health insurance and pay a fortune to send the little Porlocks to school—because the health and education services are an f…ing disgrace.

    I fear that we have a political class who, weaned on the handout and begging bowl culture, are likely to be little more than born-again socialists.


  • Free prescriptions is exactly the wrong way to go. Dear me, isn’t NI full of born-again socialists.

  • Observer

    We probably wont be getting them.

    Why was McGimp giving off about the DUP and no money at the weekend… to wash his hands of the commitment. He has no money to do it!

    If he scraped charges where, just where would he get the money from… he could sell a bit of his land I suppose!

    But in all seriousness just look at the state of the hospitals particularly the Ulster in McGimps home constituency (thats not South Belfast).

    The same as everything else… the future of Northern Ireland… its full of empty promises… water bills, higher rates, trolley beds, apathy, wastage etc etc

    Seems to be a policy of ‘normalisation’ to me! 🙂

  • carlosblancos

    Free prescriptions is a ridiculous waste of money. Something akin to child benefit payments for everyone, when they’re clearly not needed by all. There are those who can afford and those who can’t.

    Instead of spending the money on free tablets for all, why not target resources to provide for early stage treatment for Alzheimers (which the NICE has rejected) or late stage cancer drugs which can siginificantly improve the standing of living of the terminally in? (also rejected by NICE). What an example Northern Ireland would set if we funded these instead of a tablets and cough bottle free-for-all?

    Better Alzehimers and Cancer treatment would be much better than Sammy and Sadie getting their GP prescribed Prozac for free.

  • IJP


    My view entirely.

  • kensei

    I think there is a distinction of prescriptions for acute illness, and prescriptions for chronic conditions. If you have to spend money on medication every single week, basically forever, it essentially functions as a health tax.

    There is an argument that says it should be based totally on ability to pay, but I think that ultimately weakens the social contract. there should be some basic entitlements that people receive regardless, and some more help for those that need it.

  • jaffa

    “but I think that ultimately weakens the social contract”

    Unusually I’m not with Ian on this. Flat taxes and universal vouchers are the way to go. Let’s not force skint people to fill out yet another means test application to get a top up to the free part of there prescription.

    We also need to keep tax payers on-line and it’s a piss-off to pay out on an earnings basis and then to find that you’ll also be receiving on an earnings basis. Same from everyone proportionately (through flat or simply scaled income taxes), same to everyone exactly (through universal vouchers or straight-forward blanket coverage).

    Not only does this approach save on admin and avoidance, it also motivates people to contribute more in tax. Complexity theory says the most interesting patterns can be built with the most simple rules. I think that goes for taxation and society as much as seagulls and sand dunes.