Free Prescriptions: A Welsh Solution to Welsh Health Problems
Thousands of people will benefit from free prescriptions in Wales, removing cost as a barrier to better health in Wales, the First Minister Rhodri Morgan said today.
Prescriptions charges will be abolished from Sunday, 1 April 2007 and marks the biggest change to health service delivery in Wales in decades.
The First Minister hailed the move as a Welsh solution for Welsh health problems.
Research shows that many people are deterred from taking regular medication that would help them live healthier lives because of the cost of paying for regular prescriptions. If patients cannot afford the medicines they need to treat their condition, the long-term costs to the NHS could be far greater in terms of avoidable hospital treatment.
"If people don't take regular prescription medicines they may find their health gets worse. This would turn out to be more expensive to the NHS in the longer term," said Mr Morgan. "Likewise, there are people on benefits who may be deterred from taking up employment, because they may lose access to free prescriptions, especially if their employment may not be highly paid, and if they need multiple items on the prescription."
The Welsh Assembly Government made a commitment in 2003 to gradually reduce prescription charges and make them free by April this year. This was the simplest and most effective way of addressing this issue.
Mr Morgan said: "Devolution enables Wales to come up with Welsh solutions to Welsh circumstances. Wales, due to its industrial past, has a legacy of ill-health, especially of chronic conditions.
"We recognised the potential link between health improvement and the cost of prescriptions in 2001 when we froze the cost of prescriptions at