UUP to abolish prescription charges

Michael McGimpsey has moved to implement a manifesto commitment (PDF, pg 8) to scrap prescription charges.

  • Steve

    All on their own!!!! Now that is impressive

    Nice spin Michael

  • DUP Voter

    Everything the UUP does is wrong. Fact

  • Steve

    There you go Michael sooner or later somebody with a more deluded agenda than yours was bound to show up

  • Ulsters my homeland

    Is it against forum rules to post under different names on this site?

  • Driftwood

    And he was able to do this without cross community support in the executive? What if SF decide to veto this? Given that none of their supporters pay prescription charges anway.

  • Duncan Shipley Dalton

    Its cheap politics and bad public policy. A gimmick to make a few middle class people who can actually afford the 7 quid prescription charge feel better at the cost of a lot of much more important healthcare spending. There is no endless pit of money and what is spent on this can not be allocated to old ladies hip replacements or ER departments. Those who genuinely can not afford their prescriptions get them free anyway so these is rank tokenism. Seriously try living in the USA for a little while and paying 150 a month on top of your insurance costs for prescriptions and then see how lucky we are to only have a 7 quid fee.

  • Danny O’Connor

    I disagree Duncan ,the money spent on the administration of collecting charges is huge.As I am earning the minimum wage it will save me the cost of 3 pre-payments per year-about 100 quid.People on low incomes will benefit, those on benefit are already exempt .Those who are wealthy will be paying a higher water tax on the value of their property,this could offset some of that. The possible down side is that with people in England still paying there could be pressure on the treasury to reduce the grant to the devolved institutions.Good to see another local minister step up to the plate.

  • David Cather

    I thought the purpose of this blog was to provide non-partisan analysis and observations.

    But let’s not let rather petty attempts at spin detract from what is a good news day for the Assembly and devolution. Well done the Assembly, the executive and well done to the Health Minister who undeniably had an important role.

  • x

    At least one political party has decided to stick to at least one manifesto committment – maybe the rest could learn a lesson.

    So a challenge to our political parties – which manifesto committment that makes a difference to the lives of the people of Northern Ireland did you keep?

  • Smore

    “UUP to abolish prescription charges”…with the budget allocation that the DUP gave them? And I thought i remembered the UUP complaining that the 50% budget allocation was not enough!

  • Carson’s Cat

    Good to see Michael back to his non-party line best….

    But on to the real issue. There’s no doubt that some relaxation of prescription charges is necessary. However, it would appear that Michael McGimpsey is able to fund it entirely out of his own budget without cutting any other service. Considering that there must be at least some extra cost to the NHS of the decision then it must mean that his budget allocation wasn’t quite as measley as he was trying to make out last year.

    There is an issue also as to whether free presriptions for the entire population is the best way forward. People do tend to have a bit of a disregard for things if they’re simply made available to them so perhaps it might have been better to have abolished charges for old people, extended the range of benefits which are exempt from charges and scrapped them for those who are suffering from cancer etc.

    Those people who can afford to pay something could have possibly paid less if he wanted to do something for everyone and that money could be used to pay for extra home helps who seem to get about 45 seconds per month to look after the elderly.

    Not something anyone is going to complain about, and any public scrutiny/criticism in the short term will appear churlish, but when the dust settles there will be a chance to decide whether he’s actually taken the best decision for Northern Ireland or just one which he judges will be populist.

  • Michael Shilliday

    First, Michael complained about his budget allocation, and it was raised. As a result he has the means to implement the manifesto he was elected on. The DUP manifesto contains very very little by way of firm commitments on health. The UUP’s contrasts greatly.

    Therefore, UUP make a commitment, gain electoral support, choose health, gain extra resources from a miserly draft budget, and the UUP abolish charges. Despite what the comments on this thread would have you believe.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    Point of information, the purpose of this blog most certainly is not to “provide non-partisan analysis and observations”, even if they do read like a UUP press release.

    Fair play to McGimpsey. It only took a year-long newspaper campaign and NI left being the only part of the UK still charging for prescriptions to get him to move.


  • IJP

    Purely personally, I actually agree with Duncan.

    Bluntly, I can afford £6.80.

    The “administration” argument is also false, as removing prescription charges will most likely lead to more demand for them, and more pressure on GPs, thus ultimately upping administration costs.

    I would have reduced the charge perhaps, and brought in free prescriptions for more of those with long-term conditions.

    But yet again we see this Executive reacting to a well developed middle-class campaign, just as they did with rates caps for those in £400K+ (2005 values) homes. In the end, it’s those are are working but who are finding it increasingly hard to get by who will be hit by the burden. And that is, frankly, grossly unfair.

    Like I say, a personal view only.

  • IJP


    England still charges for prescriptions – more than NI does, too.

    Which is yet another reason it’s bad politics – next time the NI Executive goes looking for money from HM Treasury, guess what the response will be?

    Frankly I’m not a great believer in regional newspapers determining public policy, especially when they get basic facts wrong!

  • Jimmy

    Michael McGimpsy should be applauded for this decision, lets hope Connor Murphy can do the same with the Water Tax.(sarcasm intended)
    I rather agree with IJP predictions though,the English are not going to like it that the Celtic nations can scrap unfair taxes at the behest of thier (the English) taxes, lets face it England subsidises the Celtic Nations,the UK treasury will not be at all too generous when it comes to handing out budgets for next year.
    The Union is supposed to be a Union of equals we can lest afford that the English feel aggreived in it.

  • Danny O’Connor

    The central service agency which administers the current system costs millions,I said earlier that this will benefit low income families,and it will.Prescription fraud is common,yet when was the last time you heard of anyone being convicted of it.As someone who is on several different medications ,who decides that my illness means that I have to pay ,yet someone taking the pill gets it free-regardless of how much they earn.Diabetics get free prescriptions ,which is fine,but cancer patients don’t.The current system is beyond reform.

  • DC

    IJP, for a liberal you don’t half speak the language of a Tory.

  • Richard James

    I’m afraid my insticts are with Duncan as well, seven quid is affordable for individuals but a vast expense to the state. However the UUP did promise to implement this in their manifesto and credit for living up to it.

    DC, liberals of yesteryear would have had you paying for all your healthcare, let alone a small fee for a prescription.

  • DC

    Thanks RJ, they also had good home rule ideas too. I try not to live in the past given where we are coming from. But to the point of middle-class and people being able to pay, can I just say the middle-class in Northern Ireland is certainly not relative to middle-class earnings in England.

    The biggest private sector employer here is Tesco, and a large public sector and civil service with strict and painfully slow incremental payscales leaves me unimpressed with any notion of off-the-rails wealth generation.

    It aint here.

    I think it should be a welcome initiative, the financial monitoring re impact on budget and clinical/medical dispensation should be reviewed so as to ensure other areas of healthcare do not suffer. As a political party the UUP is entitled to enact its manifesto, the wisdom of it will be reviewed, however populist it may seem.

    Besides, everything has gotten so negative here re politics that, yes, it might be a stunt but it is no worse a stunt than that of a government not sitting.

    A government that refuses to govern is not worthy to be called a government.

    If Alliance and other politically motivated people are worried about public money it would do the decent thing and apply a strong political argument to cut immediately MLAs’ pay given the Assembly isn’t sitting nor functioning.

    Now that is a classic case of political turkeys and Christmas. Who’s not looking whom straight in the eyes now.

  • IJP


    Spot on. I’ve certainly nothing against the Minister for doing it.

    However, I still would say there were many other more useful priorities for the few million that has gone on this:
    – reducing cost of public transport;
    – enhancing Winter Fuel Payements;
    – reversing the Rates Cap completely (so that, say, the first £50K of any property is unrated so that those in lower-value homes get a higher share of their property unrated);
    – removal of Regional rate in favour of income-related charge;
    – further deferral of water charges;
    – reduction in tuition fees.

    I’d say any of those would’ve had a greater effect in targeting those really in need, rather than giving people like me (frankly!) yet another break.

    To be honest, the argument that prescription charges cannot be administered and thus should be abandoned is a bit like suggesting public transport charges are awful difficult to manage so we should just allow everyone on for free. More effective management of who qualified for free prescriptions plus investment in other areas would have been my personal choice.

    As for the Tory line, I’m not quite sure where that one comes from! After all, the Minister is a Tory, isn’t he…?!

  • DC

    I don’t mind paying taxes for people who require genuine access to health, education and action from police services.

    But I do mind paying taxes for an Assembly government that doesn’t sit, won’t talk and won’t work together and take those difficult decisions. An assembly that offers disingenuous excuses: partnership problems; confidence; and, equality.

    Who pays for the injured police officer, after an attack by dissidents, who pays for the business failures and for the politics that is so out of touch with that embattled private sector here. Must of all who pays for the unemployment linked to a stagnant economy, scuppered by confidence issues – personal through disbelief in it and political that misses the necessity of political progress through compromise, progress ruined by rigid fixation over apparent security issues linked to the lack of faith and trust with republicans.

    Who really didn’t fix the reconciliation roof while the political and economic sun was shining on those new chances 10 years ago?