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.