Christina Rees MP, the Shadow Secretary of State for Wales and local Member of Parliament visited the Dyfed Road Pharmacy in Neath last week (Wednesday 5th April) to meet the staff and celebrate a decade since free prescriptions were introduced in Wales.
Commenting on the visit she said: “Free prescriptions were introduced in Wales in 2007 as a long-term investment to improve people’s health. Welsh Labour firmly believes that by providing people with the medication they need helps to keep them well and out of hospital, thereby reducing the overall cost to the NHS. It should never be the case that people with serious chronic conditions can not afford to collect their prescription. We were the first of the home nations to take the step to introduce free prescriptions and I’m delighted that both Scotland and Northern Ireland followed our lead.”
Ms Rees also discussed with local pharmacy staff the imminent roll out of the Choose Pharmacy IT programme, which will provide pharmacists with access to people’s individual health records and help discharge information to be transferred from hospitals to a patient’s nominated community pharmacy.
The support for pharmacies by the Welsh Labour Government is in sharp contrast to the UK Conservative Government’s cut to the funding available to community pharmacies in England from 1 December 2016. The cuts amount to a reduction of four per cent to the sector in England in 2016-17 and over seven per cent in 2017-18.
In Wales, there will be no funding cut but instead the money will be used to enable pharmacists to take responsibility for managing a range of minor ailments. People will be able to see their pharmacist for free treatment instead of making an appointment to see their GP. The scheme will help to free up GP time to deal with people with more complex needs. Currently almost a fifth of GPs’ workload and eight per cent of emergency department consultations are estimated to relate to minor ailments, such as coughs, colds, ear ache, hay fever and conjunctivitis.
Christina Rees MP said: “Both the funding commitment in Wales and the Choose Pharmacy platform show the Welsh Government’s commitment to health on the high street. It makes accessing the appropriate care easier and closer to home for patients, and frees up more time for GPs and hospitals to deal with health issues that only they can deal with.
Commenting on the visit, Community Pharmacy Wales’ Russell Goodway said: “From free prescriptions to common ailments, it is good to see the Welsh Government investing in front line health services. By thinking creatively together pharmacists and politicians can make a real difference to how people access health care conveniently and close to home over the next few years. Wales can offer the best high street based health care anywhere in the UK.”