PEOPLE in Wales received the equivalent of 24 NHS prescription items each last year, the highest in the UK.

And the amount of prescription items dispensed in Wales has increased by more than half in the past ten years. The Wales figure for 2011/12 was almost four items per person more than in Northern Ireland, and almost six items per person more than in England and Scotland.

Welsh Government figures show that 72.7 million items were prescribed last year, up from 46 million in 2001/02.

For several years, patients in Wales have benefited from the Assembly's free prescriptions policy, in contrast to patients elsewhere in the UK.

Critics believe this policy has fuelled the increase in prescribed items and the subsequent higher number of items prescribed per person.

But a Welsh government spokesman called the criticism 'complete nonsense' and said the increase in prescription items dispensed in England over the past decade has been higher than in Wales.