Prescriptions have become free in Wales but the rest of the country has seen a 20p rise from £6.65 to £6.85.
The move prompted calls for charges to be scrapped across the NHS in the wake of the Welsh decision.
The Department of Health, which said the health service will get about £430 million from prescriptions in 2006/07, has no plans to abolish charges.
In Wales the price was frozen at £6 in 2001 and has been falling gradually since 2004 as part of a Welsh Labour manifesto commitment.
Wales’s First Minister Rhodri Morgan said the abolition of prescription charges and the ban on smoking in public places – which comes into force today – represented the ‘biggest move in decades’ to improve public health.
Patients Association spokeswoman Katherine Murphy said: ‘It’s a National Health Service so it should be prescriptions for free the other side of the Severn Bridge if it’s going to be free in Wales.
‘Charges went up in England this year and that can put people off because £6.85 is a lot of money for some people. I think the Assembly members have done very well, to be quite honest.’
A Department of Health spokeswoman said: ‘We have no plans to abolish prescription charges. This is a devolved matter and the level of the charge in Wales is a decision for the National Assembly for Wales.’
In Scotland, where the 20p rise also kicks in, there is a review of the system under way. About half of people north of the border are already exempt from paying. Northern Ireland will also be hit by the 20p rise.
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