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Dental And Sight Test Charges

Volume 127: debated on Thursday 11 February 1988

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To ask the Secretary of State for Social Services what information he has as to which countries in the EEC charge for (a) dental check-ups and (b) sight tests.

I regret that the information available to the Department on optical and dental charges in European Community Countries is insufficient to provide the details requested.

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Services what statement or other evidence he has that charges will not deter people from having sight tests.

The effect of the Government's proposals is necessarily a matter of judgment, especially since it would be for opticians themselves to determine the level of any charges for those ceasing to be entitled to a free NHS sight test. But it is relevant to note that approximately a third of the population would continue to be so entitled, including the least well-off, and that most people who have a test need spectacles and there is no evidence that they have been deterred from attending the optician by the price of private spectacles.

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Services what statistical evidence he has on the relationship between charges and the take-up of dental treatment.

After an increase in dental charges there is evidence of a short-term drop in demand, followed by a recovery and a continuation of the long-term rise in the number of courses of dental treatment.

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Services (1) how many representations he has now received on his proposal to introduce a charge for eye examinations; what proportion were in favour of charges; and what proportion were against charges;(2) how many representations he has now received on ending free dental checks; and what proportion were in favour of introducing a charge.

We have now received about 1,500 representations on the proposals to restrict the NHS sight test to certain groups and to introduce a charge for the NHS dental examinations subject to the same exemptions as for other dental charges. Concerning the balance of these representations, I refer the hon. Member to my reply to the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing) on 11 January, at column 181.