Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Health gimmick taken up in millions

As the BBC and Western Mail have reported, the Welsh Assembly Gimmick Government's main gimmick - in order to make it stand out from Westminster - isn't quite going to plan.

The number of prescription items dispensed in Wales rose by 2.9m in the first year of free prescriptions, official figures show.

The number of dispensed items rose 5% from 59.1m in 2006/7 to 62m in 2007/8, the
equivalent to 20 items per person.

The chief medical officer said it showed there was more preventative work and more cancer drugs prescribed. But the Lib Dems said the figures proved their concerns of introducing free

The figures follow a five-year general trend of an increase in items dispensed.

The National Statistics on GP prescribing showed the net cost of the prescribed items was £584m - an increase of 1% on the previous year - and equivalent to £188.90 per head.

Wales' £3 prescription charge was abolished in April last year by the Labour and Plaid Cymru run assembly government.

Wales' Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Jewell said:

We know that in Wales we have more people with long term illnesses than England. These figures reflect the fact that more preventative work is being undertaken, with GPs prescribing medicines which are helping people manage their chronic conditions and keeping them out of hospital, reducing the cost and pressure on the NHS.

We are also issuing more medicines used to treat cancers, as cancer therapy has improved to a point where, for a number of patients, it is now a chronic condition, plus GPs are helping more patients with diabetes manage their condition under the new enhanced contract.

The figures also show we are increasing access while reducing costs. The net cost per prescription item decreased from £9.80 to £9.42.

But Welsh Lib Dem health spokesperson Jenny Randerson said:

We warned the (assembly) government that giving free prescriptions for all would be disastrous and today's figures have vindicated our position. A 5% increase (in items claimed) is disastrous when the (assembly) government is refusing to fund vital lifesaving drugs. The cost of this gimmick will be with Welsh patients for generations.

While millionaires claim their free paracetamol, the health service will continue to be to stretched to provide life saving services.

Shadow Health Minister Jonathan Morgan, Tory AM, said the figures showed people in Wales were becoming increasingly reliant on prescribed medicine:

The number of prescriptions being issued for cardiovascular problems for example has risen by 141.5% and these are often for the largest, most expensive items. Rather than micro-managing the NHS, the assembly government should be looking at improving the nation's health. Only then, as we become a healthier country, will costs fall.
Opposition politicians immediately said the figures were evidence that the Welsh Assembly Government’s flagship £30m-a-year policy had been a disaster. But doctors said the 2007-08 increases were in line with previous year-on-year rises in prescriptions in Wales and reflected the ongoing poor health of the nation.


Darren 20 August 2008 at 11:49  

This gimmick has just encouraged more people to make repeat prescriptions whether they need it or not as it will do no harm to their purse.

Rhetoric Innes 20 August 2008 at 12:35  

absolute disaster in policy making,
As Mrs. Randerson pointed.
The easy availability of free prescriptions will and is creating a culture of dependence on these drugs.
I feel it is also damaging the private economy of alternative medicine and therapy.

Hen Ferchetan 20 August 2008 at 13:13  

The figures follow a five-year general trend of an increase in items dispensed.

So if the trend has been upwards for five years why is the 2 year policy being blamed for the recent inrease?

Anyone inow how much the previous increases were? Without those figures it's ludicrous to claim that it's an "absolute disaster".

Anonymous 20 August 2008 at 13:28  

Wales' £3 prescription charge was abolished in April last year by the Labour and Plaid Cymru run assembly government.

On a point of information, Plaid were not part of the WAG in April of last year, though they did support the policy.

Anonymous 20 August 2008 at 15:11  

The whole idea is an "absolute disaster"!!!

Jolly Roger Rtd. 21 August 2008 at 02:12  

It's some time since I've heard so much tosh.
About free prescriptions. It simply won't wash.
Am I a fool, a dope or a jerk, Having paid my dues through a lifetime of work,
To expect my meds to be given freely.
When near Death's door, I've been, nearly?
I take four meds daily that I just can't afford.
Would you prefer that I visit the Lord?

Whilst fore-lock tugging and not wishing to disturb ya,
I say to the better off, in leafy suburbia.
Just what exactly would you have me do?
Is my bucket to be kicked by your political shoe.
Let's keep the promise, Cradle to Grave.
The monies involved are little to save.
And as the counters enjoy their latest faked bean-fest.
What's for me, another bloody means-test?

Art 21 August 2008 at 23:46  

Jolly Roger should be given a book deal.

Jolly Roger, a Welsh liability 22 August 2008 at 01:16  

Now that's a nice thought that you have arrived at.
I'll make a few bob and then I can go private.
And not be a continual drain on resources.
And leave more for those who have faces like horses.
They won't look down their long noses at me.
I'll be up with the nobs. Oh yippedy dee.
But in the meantime, I'll just be content,
To get my free meds which others resent.

Cibwr 23 August 2008 at 14:28  

Just how many Millionaires have had their Paracetamol on prescription? Perhaps some figures could be given, otherwise such claims are just empty rhetoric. Given the cost of collecting perhaps free prescriptions have actually saved money? Perhaps the two groups to blame are those attempting to get free prescriptions for cheap over the counter drugs and the doctors who give in to their demands? As has been stated the rise is largely due to the chronic health problems we have in Wales, not due to petty requests.

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