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Prescription charges to be scrapped in Northern Ireland.

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Prescription charges will be abolished in Northern Ireland by April 2010.

Patients will continue to pay the current rate of £6.85 until January 2009 when charges will be reduced to £3 ahead of the abolition, Michael McGimpsey, health minister for Northern Ireland has announced.

The move will see the Northern Irish Executive lose out on £13m each year.

The Welsh Assembly abolished charging last April, and Scotland will follow in April 2011.

Last week, prime minister Gordon Brown announced England would stop charging cancer patients for prescriptions next year, with a view to extending this to all patients with long-term conditsion. But he stopped short of mentioning abolishing the charge for all patients.

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