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Last Updated:  Tuesday, 1 April, 2003, 12:51 GMT 13:51 UK
Labour pledges free prescriptions
prescription
There have been repeated calls to scrap charges for all
Labour has pledged to abolish all prescription charges in Wales if it wins next month's Welsh Assembly election.

The move would benefit around 1.5m people who do not currently receive drugs free of charge.

The decision would cost an extra 30m a year - and opposition parties have been quick to condemn the gesture as an election bribe.

The vast majority of prescriptions in Wales are already free, with only about 11% paid for.

Wales differs from other parts of the UK by offering free prescriptions for 16 to 25 year olds.

People over 60 and those on low incomes are also exempt, as elsewhere in the UK.

The 6 charge for prescriptions in Wales is already 20p lower than in England.

Now First Minister Rhodri Morgan has said Labour would phase it out in stages over the four-year assembly term if it is successful in the 1 May election.

Rhodri Morgan
Promise : Rhodri Morgan

"It was Nye Bevan's great dream and we are determined to make it a reality for every man, woman and child in Wales," Mr Morgan said.

"We have a huge legacy of ill health because of our industrial past.

"This will also feed into our move towards full employment. It will help make work pay, helping people get off benefits and into work. Everyone should have the self-confidence and benefits of working.

"I give my absolute pledge that if we are returned to power on we will sweep away all prescription charges."

Reaction

The news received a mixed reaction from other parties in Wales.

Kirsty Williams, Health Spokesperson for the Welsh Liberal Democrats, welcomed the pledge, but claimed it had come about as a result of pressure from her party.

She added: "It is obvious that it has been the Welsh Liberal Democrats who have delivered the difference on prescription charges."

Dai Lloyd, Plaid Cymru's Health Spokesman, told BBC Radio Wales: "It is a long-standing policy of Plaid Cymru since 1994.

"We've called for abolition because we see (prescription charges) as a tax on illness."

Conservative Health Spokesman, David Melding, added: "It's an indication of the chaos and panic as far as Labour are concerned in the health service.

"It's a bit of a smokescreen to hide their terrible failure on waiting lists."


WATCH AND LISTEN
BBC Wales' Simon Morris
"Labour announces its pledges tomorrow"



SEE ALSO:
70 to shop prescription frauds
10 Feb 03  |  Health
Free prescriptions call
04 Feb 03  |  Health
AM urges prescription jobs move
16 Jan 02  |  Wales


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