Sunday, October 05, 2008

Free Prescriptions to end ?

Today's News of the World is reporting that the Assembly Government is going to abandon its policy of free prescriptions for all. The report is under the name of Jamie Lyons, who did a stint in the National Assembly before moving to London. In fact it was Jamie who brought to public attention the personally embarrassing story which involved the toxic mix of 'Tory politician without trousers, Welsh farmer, sheep, and police' that I'm sure some visitors will remember. That was a surprisingly big news. But this story will be very big news indeed - unless there's a categorical denial, devoid of weasel words when the First Minister answers questions in the Senedd on Tuesday.

The reasons given for this stunning reversal of the previous Labour Assembly Government's flagship policy is that its cost much more than expected, in part because doctors are prescribing over-the-counter drugs like Vaseline, and that patients from England are registering with Welsh GPs in order to qualify for free prescriptions. All of this was entirely predictable, and I, along with all other Conservative AMs at the time warned about it. We said that while free prescriptions are very nice, they would be an unacceptable drain on the rest of the NHS in Wales.

If this story turns out to be true, there are some interesting political implications. I cannot see Plaid Cymru agreeing to it, bearing in mind the unwavering support they have always given. 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.

16 comments:

Dewi Harries said...

Was that the big News of the World scoop Glyn ????

Stonemason said...

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 has been calculated to have a long term cost benefit to the NHS, patients were more likely to complete their medication, and thus save on recurrence of complaints. It was an economic solution to a medical issue.

If the issue is the prescribing of over-the counter products, has anybody considered asking doctors why they do it, it might be the case the over-the-counter products are cheaper. Or, I wonder, is it a case of the "Ridiculous News of the World", continuing to be ridiculous!

Glyn Davies said...

Dewi - It was. And if it turns out to be true, it will be a very big story indeed.

Stonemason - I cannot answer that. All I know is that the NoW has been working on this story for a while, and what' printed is what's printed. I'd expect there to be some discussion about this in the Assembly on Tuesday.

Dr. Christopher Wood said...

Overheard by a 'fly on the wall' at a meeting attended by the First and Deputy First Minister: "We did our best, how were we to know that common sense should always be part of our decisions".

I hear King Canute is a great fan of the 'One Wales Government'. Likewise the Icelandic government.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the WAG spokesperson who is reported to have said, "The story in today's News of the World is absolute nonsense”. The headline should have been: “Plaid Cymru Communist Sense”.

Plaid is a party so devoid of common-sense 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.

Plaid – the party where good ideas have a half-life of a tasty Cornish Pasty … at a rugby match.

Patriot said...

Not going to happen Glyn. You need to improve your sources. Ps are you on a retainer for news of the world ? Your earlier blog took sales up by 60 precisely :-)

eric said...

The whole health area is not on e I take a huge interest in, despite its seemingly top table status, so cannot comment, i never really saw the point of me not paying a few quid for my prescriptions, but never saw the full picture. So your criticism Glyn may be fair - but again its criticism, what is your / or your parties suggested replacement

Christopher Wood said...

Patriot> of course it's "Not going to happen". Common sense is a feature not found in the One Wales "Government". Plaid will gleefully march on safe in the knowledge that it refused to tune into reality, and Wales will be where exactly? Answer: where it is right now, at the bottom of the British economic league tables.

penlan said...

I can't see WAG trying to get this through.It is such a fundamental symbol to the Labour left-Bevan's resignation in 1951 on its imposition etc.

Even Bevan was worried about the cost of unrestricted free prescriptions nevertheless.There was a speech in which he said that the NHS was not formed "to pour medicines down the throats of the great British public."


Perhaps this story was given to the press to test the reaction-kite flying exercise.It is in the NOTW-or that "geriatric W***ers Weekly"as the late,great Auberon Waugh used to describe it.

It is a non runner.

Glyn Davies said...

all - All I posted was what was that which was printed in the News of the World. If it is (or was) true it was a huge story. The Government has denied there is any truth in it at all. Hmmmm.

I know the journalist from when he worked in Cardiff Bay for the Press Association. He was good, and did not make things up. It remains a story if Labour in Westminster are briefing against the assembly Governmnet in this way. I will try to find out more of the background to this. and I miss Auberon Waugh.

Anonymous said...

Glyn im suprised that you were taken in by this. The News of the World! shame on you!

Although i suspect that in fact you didnt believe it at all and in fact just wanted to stir things up. The honest politician in you is vanishing with your march to westminster i fear!

Glyn Davies said...

anon - What do you, (and others) mean be 'being taken in'. I heard that a British Sunday Newspaper was going to claim that a 'very senior' Westminster Labour contact is saying that the Assembly Government is going to end its policy of free prescriptions. That has to be published. But I couldn't and didn't say that I knew it to be true. However you look at this its a big story. As I expected the Assembly Government has dismissed the report as completely untrue. So now we have very senior Labour persons at Westminster briefing against/undermining Labour Ministers in Cardiff. That in itself is a story worth noting.

frankie said...

Whether true or not, free prescriptions for all is ridiculous, and was pushed through because Labour thought it was a vote winner. Common sense and looking at the bigger picture was ignored.

Of course free scrips cost the NHS more, and of course English patients are registering with over the border Welsh Practices as "Temporary Residents" so they can get their medication for nothing.

What WAG should have done was make prescriptions free for patients with chronic diseases as they did with diabetic patients. So all patients with asthma, and chronic respiratory diseases whose medication is a matter of life or death don't have to pay, of course the rest of us able bodied patients should pay - it just makes sense, doesn't it?

Stonemason said...

frankie, your "the rest of us able bodied patients should pay - it just makes sense, doesn't it?"

It does make sense, unless you are one of the poorest who needs to decide between medication or food for your family.

Anonymous said...

Looks like the chickens are coming home to roost - ... the WAG are about to raid its reserves ...

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/wales/7655271.stm

Glyn Davies said...

frankie - I agree with you, and said so at the time. there were many exemptions, and these catagories could have been looked at. In fact only about 15% of people actually paid. 85% were exempt.

stonemason - I understand that the poorest people (those on benefit)were exempt.