Alliance proposes partial return of prescription charges

Alliance Leader David Ford  with Naomi Long and Stephen Farry  during their manifesto launch at the Park Avenue Hotel in East Belfast for the forthcoming Assembly election
Alliance Leader David Ford with Naomi Long and Stephen Farry during their manifesto launch at the Park Avenue Hotel in East Belfast for the forthcoming Assembly election

The Alliance Party has pledged to reintroduce prescription charges for those able to pay for medication in Northern Ireland.

Children, the elderly and people with long-term conditions would be among exempted classes of patients.

Fees were scrapped in April 2010 at a cost of up to £30 million, the party said.

“If small charges were to be reintroduced it is estimated that just 11% of the population would have to pay, but this would still have the potential to generate a significant sum of money.

“In particular this could be used to support investment in a wider range of drugs and treatments and addressing problems of inequality of access between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.”

Pregnant women and those in receipt of benefits would also receive free scripts under the proposal from the party.

Alliance is aiming to win five or six Assembly seats in the May 5 poll, which would entitle the party to one ministry in the power-sharing Executive.

It would also have a voice in the negotiation of a Programme for Government between the nascent five-party coalition after the poll.

Greater investment in out-of-hours GP services to relieve the pressure on hospital emergency departments and better use of technology to improve waiting times for treatment are among other health promises in a manifesto launched in East Belfast on Tuesday.

Other priorities include:

:: Promoting the education of Catholic and Protestant children together in integrated schools and supporting shared neighbourhoods.

:: Requiring every minister to tackle division so money is re-invested in front line services like health and skills.

:: Introducing greater transparency around political donations and reform of the Assembly to create a government and an opposition rather than mandatory coalition. The party would abolish “sectarian designations” of Stormont members during crucial votes.

:: Investing at least an additional £85 million a year in skills.

Alliance leader David Ford said: “It is time we stopped the delay, the fudge and the waffle of the other parties and moved ahead, further and faster, to build a united community.”