Hello. Been away for a two days and just catching up. Biggest surprise was to learn that the Conservative Group in the Assembly are going to fight the next Assembly election on a manifesto commitment to reintroduce prescription charges. This is a big and 'brave' call. I wonder how it will be received by the Welsh people.
I was opposed to the abolition of prescription charges, and saw it as one of those election 'freebies' that has been so central to Rhodri Morgan's political philosophy - though I was impressed by the argument put forward by Dr Dai Lloyd, then Plaid Cymru's health spokesman, that the cost could be recouped by a huge reduction in the list of drugs which could be prescribed. Don't know the cost of free prescriptions, but I believe its over £30 million per annum - money which has to be topsliced from other Assembly budget heads.
But opposing the abolition of prescription charges is one thing. Re-introducing them is another thing altogether. It will be interesting to learn at what level this charge will be introduced - or how much below £5.00 per prescription it will be. We're told that it will still be different from the charge in England (lower). It will also be interesting to see how much wider will be the list of exemptions (Less than 10% paid for prescriptions when they were abolished). If this proposal makes it into the Assembly election manifesto, I can envisage some interesting discussions twixt the Conservatives and Plaid Cymru if they find themselves in coalition discussions! This issue is definitely one to watch.