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NHS Wales prescriptions see 39% 10-year rise

The number of prescriptions issued by NHS Wales continues to soar as newly published Welsh Government statistics reveal a 10-year rise of 39%.

In 2015/16, prescriptions issued by Welsh GPs cost £593,462,507 which paid for 79.2million prescriptions.

The number of items prescribed per head has also risen by a third (33%), from 18.7 items per head in 2005/6 to 24.8 for 2015/16.

Most costly were prescriptions to treat cardiovascular disease – with spend totalling £64,173,277 for 2015/16 - which saw a decade rise of 27% and account for 30% of all prescribed items.

Prescriptions for conditions and diseases of the central nervous system rose by 48% (this factors anti-depressants, substance dependence and Alzheimer’s). This cost the Welsh NHS £125,428,160 in 2015/16.

Prescribed items for skin conditions were marked by a rise of 7.35%. These items include sunscreen, antiperspirants, disinfectants and shampoos.

Conversely, despite 90% of all prescriptions being free with NHS England, prescription charges of just £8.40 raised £501,009,000 in 2014/15.

Responding Welsh Conservative Shadow Secretary for Health, Angela Burns AM, said:

“The last decade has seen Labour’s universal free prescriptions policy spiral out of control and it is clear that the Welsh Government needs to instigate an urgent review of the policy.

“It’s not right that inexpensive items such as shampoo and paracetamol continue to be doled out at a growing expense while those who need certain kinds of treatment for cancer are denied the drugs they need.

“The rise in cardiovascular prescriptions is further evidence of an inadequate public health policy, which is failing to set the health habits of our citizens on a proper course towards a disease-free life.

“More emphasis must be placed on avoiding ill-health through a proper diet and an active lifestyle so that medicine can, moving forward, play a diminishing role in our lives. Doing this will, crucially, serve to bring down costs to our over-stretched health service.”