I'm the Hen Ferchetan. This is my take on the world through the eyes of Wales. While mostly about Welsh politics (that most famous of dour topics!) I try to scatter some humour around, but I doubt anyone but me will find it funny! Have a read, and if it bores you then feel free to never come back!

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Sunday Sillies

Sunday is a day of rest - no work, no night out to plan, nothing to do. That's why we get the big fat papers on Sunday and that's why Sunday's are usually the day bloggers, commentators and forum users bicker about stupid things to waste time.

Today seems to fit that bill perfectly. The News of the World prints a story saying that the One Wales Government is going to scrap free prescriptions. Straight away alarm bells should be ringing in a reader's head. Firstly, it's the News of the World. Now while that should be enough to make the reader suspicious of the truth of the story there's plenty more.

The paper's source is from Whitehall, that makes him an English Health Department source. Recent months have seen plenty of tension between Edwina in the Bay and Ben Bradshaw, the English Health Minister. If the WAG were about to scrap their free prescription policy then you can be sure that Bradshaw's department would not be the first to know. Another reason to cast doubt on it all is the reason given, namely that Doctor are prescribing over the counter medicine and that the cost of the policy has ballooned due to all those millionaires abusing it. As I've noted before, the rise in the amount of prescriptions issued since the scrapping is virtually the same as the rises that occurred every year for the past half decade.

So surely anyone with any knowledge of Welsh politics would have written this story off as Whitehall mischief making. Apparently not. Tory Health Spokesman Jonathan Morgan is quoted as saying:
"This news destroys the Welsh Assembly Government’s remaining fragments of credibility over health policy. Ministers in Cardiff must now give clear answers as to the future of this initiative."
Glyn Davies also seems desperate to believe the story while Miss Wagstaff, not a fan of free prescriptions, barely pauses to question it, and the same is true of David Jones MP.

Personally I'm no big fan of free prescriptions. As long as the means test limit is set high enough to cover the people who need it then people like me who earn enough not to be on the breadline should fork out for our pills. Having said that I don't see it as a disastrous policy, neither do I see it as just a gimmick. After all our Health Service is supposed to be free, something it simply would not be if we paid for our prescriptions. But even though I'm not a fan of the policy, I'm not going to jump on an obviously false story to try and make a political point of it.

Glyn Davies believes that this is a huge story unless the One Wales Government issue a categorical denial with no weasel words.
"The story in today's News of the World is absolute nonsense. We told the newspaper on Friday that we have no intention of 'pulling the plug' on our free prescription scheme, which is highly popular, and we're delighted that Scotland and Northern Ireland are following our lead. We're at a loss to understand where this story has come from"
Categorical enough for you?


Glyn Davies said...

That's categorical enough for me. But it does rather damage the impression that Welsh Labour tries to create that having Labour in power in both Westminster and Cardiff is essential. It seems this story came from a 'very senior' person at the Westminster level.

Hen Ferchetan said...

I think it's fair to say that the Cardiff and London health departments are not firm friends these days - I can't imagine that Ben Bradshaw will be anywhere near Edwina's christmas card list.

I can only assume that this story was more for English ears than for us. London's Dept of Health wants the English to think that free prescription is unsustainable because they are under pressure to follow Wales, Scotland and NI.

Anonymous said...

and a labour source at that - so who is playing silly boys then.
Mind looking at the state of the ambulance service and no overtime threatening lives, they may need to pull back a few bob

Cibwr said...

With the number of exemptions rising it was only a matter of time before it became more cost effective to scrap the charges than to collect them.... a little bit of reality here, most millionaires would not be using the NHS anyway and would get their prescriptions via private sources. If doctors are flittering away their budget on paracetamol then more fool them and the onus should be on them to manage their patients better.