Sunday, 5 October 2008

Free drugs don't work

Welsh Conservative Glyn Davies hinted that something big was going to be covered in the London-based media this weekend, that will be so juicy that it will run for a week. He wasn't wrong.

Today, he gives us his take on the story that has been published by a former Welsh-based journalist in the News of the World. Yes, I know it's the News of the World, but this is a warning that plenty in Wales have been aware of for some time. Described by many as an absolute disaster in policy making, the story has also been covered recently in the Welsh press. This new article takes it a step further - pulling the plug on free prescriptions.

I've said it once, so I may as well say it again. The Welsh Assembly Gimmick Government's main gimmick - in order to make it stand out from Westminster - isn't quite going to plan. We all know that the majority of those that need a regular prescription, or are frequent users of the service, were entitled to free prescriptions under the old system. However, if something is FREE then it's open to abuse from others.

People tend not to think twice when it comes to taking items when free of charge. After all, it's only human nature. This is why it needs to end, or at the very least a nominal charge be placed on prescriptions (except for those covered under the old system). Not sure how the coalition partner is going to handle this challenging part to collective responsibility. They supported the policy in the first place with little reservation, and we all should be in agreement that it's going to be an interesting week in the Senedd. The usual arguments will be made, and what are the odds on the government dismissing the idea of 'pulling the plug' at first, only to change their mind at a more suitable date?

If only we could put an end to the freebie and first-to-do culture of the Assembly Government. More thought is needed when it comes to policy ideas, not 'What would make us look good in the public eye and provide a headline grabber that will run all term?'.

Welsh End Free NHS Drugs

HEALTH chiefs are set to pill the plug on free prescriptions in Wales—because they are too EXPENSIVE.

The free-for-all policy was only brought in by the Welsh Assembly 18 months ago—but has cost far MORE than the anticipated £30MILLION.

Doctors have been dishing out prescriptions for normal over-the-counter products such as vaseline, milk of magnesia and aspirin. And thousands of English people have also taken advantage of the scheme by registering with Welsh doctors.

Figures this year showed there were 100,000 more people on Welsh GPs’ lists than actually lived in the country. It has all led to the NHS there being overwhelmed by the spiralling bill for the drugs, with it draining resources from the rest of the health budget.

The Assembly has admitted that it has no idea how much it will have to shell out this year—but it’s expected to be MILLIONS more than last year.

The crisis will spark fears in Scotland and Northern Ireland over their own plans to scrap charges.

Scotland is phasing them out by 2011, and Northern Ireland last week announced it would cut charges before abolishing them in 2010.

That would leave England as the only part of the UK where patients would still have to pay. A senior Whitehall source said: “In Wales they are running out of money for this and can’t continue.

“They are going to have to pull the plug on it. It’s the last thing anyone wants to do but the financial realities are so serious that they’re having to consider it.”


Anonymous 5 October 2008 at 11:50  

The Lib Dems and Conservatives were right on this one. This will be bad news for Labour and they'll blame funding and interference from London.

John from Bangor 5 October 2008 at 11:53  

Glyn summed it up well with "I don't know what the Conservatives and the Lib Dems would do. Opposing the introduction of free prescriptions for all is not the same thing as reintroducing prescription charges. All I do know is that such a policy reversal would make Rhodri Morgan look a lot sillier than any dossier could possibly do."

Stonemason 5 October 2008 at 14:23  

I reiterate what I have previously written with Glyn.....

When the Assembly started the process that led to the abolition of prescription charges, I wrote to the Assembly government asking for an explanation as to the reasons for the policy.

I was told categorically that the removal of prescription charges had been calculated to have a long term cost benefit to the NHS, patients were more likely to complete their medication, and thus save costs related to recurrence of complaints. It was an economic solution to a medical issue.

Slightly different ending to my previous comment ...... Working people, the number of people working in Wales and earning the Statuary Minimum Wage, it is this group that should benefit greatly from free prescriptions. When you consider the cost, what is it, 30 or 50 million, in the great scheme of wanton waste by government, this I think, it is money well spent, a mere bagatelle.

Anonymous 5 October 2008 at 17:18  

The NoW article headline “Welsh end free NHS drugs” should have been: “Plaid Cymru Lack’s Common Sense”. Plaid is a party that has no idea how to fix the Welsh economy but is all too willing to Saddle the Welsh economy with hair-brain giveaways that the Welsh economy, in the state that it is in, CAN’T AFFORD.

Anonymous 5 October 2008 at 17:24  

Sorry, typo (that's what happens when one thinks of the daft schemes that come out of Plaid Cymru's mouth) ... "Lack's" should have read: "Lacks".

What Plaid Cyrmu lacks is common sense. What Plaid Cymru has is a set of blindfolds that Plaid puts on 'regularly', with 'compassion', 'most of the time'. Plaid – the party where good ideas have a half-life close to that of tasty Cornish Pasty.

Hen Ferchetan 5 October 2008 at 20:27  

I can understand why Glyn and David Jones want to believe this nonsense story, they're looking for political points - but come on Pippa, you should know better than to believe a single shred of this story.

Anonymous 5 October 2008 at 20:44  

See Peter Black's Blog:

One Wales Ewe-turn.

Cup overfloweth with Milk of Magnesia.

Miss Wagstaff 6 October 2008 at 10:38  


Not that I believe that particular story as a whole, but I have always had concerns when it comes to free prescriptions.

As for the Whitehall source. Wales may get a lump sum each year to do with it as they see fit under devolution (under scrutiny of the Assembly and WAO), but I do know that it is monitored in Whitehall.

It's not as if a cheque is sent to Cardiff, cashed, and then they know nothing about it outside of Wales. The 'account' is held by Whitehall, and Whitehall itself will always be concerned about what we're spending our budget on, and the increase is worrying.

Hen Ferchetan 6 October 2008 at 12:32  

The increase is the same as the past 4 years, well before free prescriptions were brought in.

Whitehall can be as concerned as they like, but it's not their business. While they may well have an eye on the bank account I can guarantee you that Ben Bradshaw's department would not be the first name on Edwina's call list if she really had decided to drop the policy, in fact it would probably be the last.

Anonymous 6 October 2008 at 14:02  

"The increase is the same as the past 4 years, well before free prescriptions were brought in."

As the prescription price was lowering. Do we know the figure before it started to reduce?

Anonymous 6 October 2008 at 20:44  

well said Pippa - freebies are no way to kick start an economy. My old gran used to say you don't value something that comes without cost, what ever that is. I just wonder how many people cannot afford to pay for their medicine,or who take as its free and never use it.

Mad igloosummer 6 October 2008 at 21:06  

free drugs do work pip! i got given a free spliff and it worked just the same if i had bought the dope!

Stonemason 6 October 2008 at 21:19  

Beg to differ Valleys Mam, but when you consider the poorest section of our community, those not on benefits but who work, working for the Minimum Wage, they pay dearly, through their National Insurance and Taxes, there is no such thing as a free lunch, as these people know.

Anonymous 7 October 2008 at 22:22  

Any chance of a Plaid-Cymru Free Zone in Wales? Just that PC is now part of the problem, not the solution to the underperforming Welsh economy, to which the WAG's answer is: raid the coffers/reserves instead of working hard to boost the Welsh economy. See, e.g.,

Ian 14 October 2008 at 23:46  

So, not only was the story wrong but the argument against free prescriptions is flawed. Of course there will be abuse initially, but that is a drop in the ocean compared to other benefits abuses and in the long term, it will definately encourage better control of long term health conditions.
You don't have to follow thw Tory mantra on everything, you know.

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