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Call to scrap prescription charges

Prescription charges are an "unfair tax on illness" and should be abolished, doctors said today.

They called on the government in England to follow the example set in other parts of the UK and scrap the fees - which currently stand at £7.20 per item.

Prescription charges are being phased out in Northern Ireland and Scotland, and medicines are already free in Wales.

Doctors attending the British Medical Association's annual conference in Liverpool today voted overwhelmingly in favour of asking England to follow suit.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said prescription charges were a source of "valuable income" to the NHS.

Adding: "Decisions about the timescale for phasing in prescription charge exemption for people with long-term changes will be made after Professor Ian Gilmore has completed his review.

"The review is due to be completed in the autumn."

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Your comments (terms and conditions apply):

"Health is a devolved power in Wales and free prescription charges are funded through an allocated Welsh Assembly government budget which has no impact on the NHS budget for England. However, I believe very strongly that prescription charges should be abolished across the United Kingdom." - Hilary, South Wales

"As an asthmatic I sometimes struggled to pay for inhalers etc, to control asthma until the prepaid scheme came in; however once I needed thyroxine everything is free. During chronic disease clinics patients often used to say they needed to pick out which medication they felt was important as they could not afford to pay the amount required for prepaid scripts. In the
long run this leads to more acute admissions for asthma and complications from uncontrolled hypertension. I feel free prescriptions are the way forward but the general public also needs to learn not to stockpile medication which causes more waste" - Mary Swinney, South Tyneside

"I think it's disgusting that only England is having to pay charges. Either everyone does or no one does!! Why should England pay for the NHS uptake when the rest of the country aren't!" - Sam, West Midlands