Speaking in his speech to the Assembly this morning Kieran McCarthy MLA said: “I hope that this Assembly will support my call to our new Health Minister to initiate a cost benefit analysis of prescription charges as they currently exist.
“At its inception in 1945, the NHS was free at the point of access. Prescription charges were only added later. Few would dispute that the principle of free prescriptions is extremely important for a Health Service which should ideally be free at the point of use.
“Research has shown that prescription charges have prevented some patients from accessing the drugs they need. This factor could put extra financial pressure on the NHS in the long term because people need treatment which could have been avoided had they been able to afford their prescriptions in the first place.
“This debate must also focus on health priorities – there are other big issues such as the state of our hospitals, junior doctor training and mental health requires significant extra funding and we want to see a cost-benefit analysis conducted, to ensure the best use of our health funding.
“Our priority must be progress based on what benefits the many, not the few.”
“I would also like to acknowledge the efforts of one of our leading newspapers, the Belfast Telegraph, in their bid to create a level playing field for everyone locally.”