A report by the office of National Statics for the Welsh government report says more than 2.5 million more prescriptions were issued in Wales in 2011 - taking the number up to 72.7 million.
Free prescriptions were introduced in Wales in 2007.
However, the overall cost of Wales' free prescription policy was £587.2m - that is down by more than £7m the year before..
- Between 2001-02 and 2011-12 the number of prescription items dispensed in Wales increased by 57.9% from 46.0 to 72.7 million.
- Over the decade the net ingredient cost (NIC) of prescription items prescribed by GPs in Wales ncreased by 28.9 % to £587.2 million.
- Wales dispensed the highest number of prescription items per head of population – 24.0 compared to 20.2 in Northern Ireland, 18.4 in England and 18.3 in Scotland.
- Wales had the second highest net ingredient cost per head of population - £195.53 compared to £238.05 in Northern Ireland, £194.58 in Scotland and £168.57 in England.
- Wales had the lowest net ingredient cost per prescription item - £8.14 compared to £9.16 in England, 10.65 in Scotland and £11.76 in Northern Ireland
Free prescriptions were introduced in Northern Ireland in 2010 and Scotland followed in 2011. and Prescriptions in England increased by 25p earlier this year and currently cost to £7.65.
So already it is likely that Scotland and Northern Ireland will match Wales. in 4 years time.
The problem with analysing these statistics is that it just shows the cost and not the effectiveness of the policy.
We must ask the questions,
- Are people receiving more medical treatment because of this policy compared with England.?
- Are people receiving prescriptions for Drugs which would cost less over the counter in which case would another system be more cost effective?
- What is the comparison with the General Health of people in Wales compared to England especially in poorer areas?
- Are more people seeing their GP in Wales since the Introduction of this policy?
- Is there a difference between complaints at GP surgeries in Wales and Scotland.?
- What percentage people who received these prescriptions would have not used them if they were to pay £7.62 for them.. and how many prescriptions issued in England are not presented at the Chemist in Wales compared to England?
Opponents argue that those in need already receive fre prescriptions in England but how aware are people that they can receive them?
What we need to know is are people getting better healthcare because they are now getting the Prescription drugs they need .
Knowing the cost of something is important but it is not always the most essential part of what you are looking at the others are Value for Money and whether you really need it.
It may be that when opponents of free prescription use these statics to a call to end them they may be guilty of as Oscar Wilde quote
"The cynic knows the price of everything and the value of nothing".
Statics can't really tell us the value of free prescriptions .and before people use them to call for their end they should look at it more closely.