Dobson promises Pill stays free on NHS

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FRANK Dobson, the Secretary of State for Health, has ruled out putting the Pill on a prescription charge following an outcry from Labour MPs, women's rights groups, and contraceptive advice clinics.

Martyn Jones, the Labour chairman of the all-party group on population, has written to MPs saying he has been assured that the prescription charge will not be imposed.

Members of the all-party group tabled a Commons motion raising concerns about ending free contraception by prescription after it was disclosed in The Independent that it was being considered as part of the review of NHS charges.

Mr Dobson yesterday also confirmed a report in The Independent on 2 March ruling out charging for seeing the family doctor and "hotel" charges in NHS hospitals for bed and food.

A majority of GPs supported the introduction of a small charge as part of their efforts to reduce time-wasting by patients. Mr Dobson in an interview for The Times said: "Charging would break the principle that people should have access to health care when they need it and there would be huge administrative costs involved in collecting small sums of money if patients were expected to pay."

Health windfall, page 10