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Lyttle presses Health Minister on fair funding for specialist drugs

Lyttle welcomed Health Minister Jim Wells's announcement that prescription charges will be explored in order to fund greater access to specialist treatments and drugs not currently available in Northern Ireland. He also appealed to the Minister for funding details, pointing out how available monies are potentially being misused.

"I welcome the overdue action on this issue from the Health Minister and hope it is evidence of a departure for the DUP from political campaigning against fair revenue raising measures to fund essential services for people in Northern Ireland," Lyttle said in Assembly on 17 February.

The Alliance Party has consistently supported the idea of using reasonable prescription charges in order to help finance essential services in Northern Ireland. Lyttle trusts that the public will also support this policy, particularly because the Health Minister has confirmed that there will be protections for patients requiring long-term treatments.

"The Minister must ensure that the administration cost of any new system is kept as low as possible and that as much funding as possible is directed towards greater access to these drugs," Lyttle said.

The MLA also raised the issue that the Health and Social Care Board already receives Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Payments (PPRS) of over £3 million per quarter from the UK Department of Health, but there is virtually no knowledge of how that money is being spent. Lyttle said that Alliance intends to tackle any bureaucratic waste, and is seeking greater transparency as to where the PPRS money is going.

Earlier this month, Lyttle submitted a question to the Minister of Health regarding the details of the PPRS payments and how they have been used. Mr Wells responded that returns from the PPRS were re-invested to "assist with financial pressures and service development priorities," but gave no further specifics.

In his closing remarks in the Assembly, Lyttle noted: "I hope the outcome of this decision will bring increased access to much needed life extending drugs for patients and their families in Northern Ireland."

Chris in the constituency