General practitioner Wales

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BMA defends free prescriptions rise

The BMA has defended free prescriptions after it was revealed the number handed out in Wales had risen for the eleventh year in a row.

According to Welsh government figures, another 2.5 million more free prescriptions were issued in 2011, bringing the number up to 72.7 million.

BMA Welsh secretary Richard Lewis, writing on his BMA blog, said: ‘Once again, the increase in medicines dispensed in Wales has opened the floodgates for the anti-free prescriptions camp to have another go at the system.

‘Free prescriptions are a long-term investment by the Welsh government in managing chronic conditions and improving health and ultimately helping to reduce the cost and pressure on the NHS.

‘The fact that more prescriptions are being dispensed is an indicator of previously unmet needs now being addressed. Improved methods of diagnosis and proactive medicine have contributed to the rise in dispensing.’

The unknown ill 

Despite the increase in the number of free prescriptions, the overall cost of the policy fell by more than £7m to £587.2m.

Free prescriptions were introduced in Wales in 2007.

A spokesperson for the Welsh government would not comment when asked if free prescriptions were permanent.

Northern Ireland is considering reintroducing prescription charges after costs spiralled since the policy was introduced there in April 2010.

The BMA continues to call for the abolition of prescription charges in England, the only UK nation in which they still exist.