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Prescription Charges

Volume 455: debated on Monday 8 January 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Health how much her Department's revenue was from prescription charges paid by people (a) under 25 years and (b) over 25 years in the latest year for which figures are available. (108688)

To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether the National Union of Students will be consulted as part of the review into prescription charges; and what the timescale is for the review. (108693)

To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many internal reviews of the prescription charging system have been carried out since 1997; and what the outcome has been of each. (109489)

An internal review of prescription charges was undertaken by departmental officials, in conjunction with HM Treasury, as part of the formulation of Government policy for the 1998 comprehensive spending review. This work fed into the outcome of the comprehensive spending review which was published by HM Treasury. No changes were made to the charging arrangements as a result.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health if she will initiate a full-scale review of the costs and benefits of (a) alternative systems to the existing prescription charging system and (b) the abolition of prescription charging altogether. (109490)

The Government are undertaking a review of prescription charges and will report the outcome of this review by the summer recess 2007. This review will include options to:

revise the list of medical exemptions to prescription charges;

introduce a flat rate prescription charge with no exemptions; and

base exemption to prescription charges solely on income.

These options will be considered on the basis that any changes to prescription charge exemptions, if implemented, are cost-neutral for the national health service.

The Government do not agree that it would be appropriate to abolish prescription charges as this would reduce, by some £430 million, the money available to deliver health priorities.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what principles underpin the existing exemptions from prescription charging. (109491)

The Government's policy on entitlement to help with prescription charges in England is based on the principle that those who can afford to contribute should do so, while those who are likely to have difficulty in paying should be protected. Consequently 87 per cent. of prescriptions in England are dispensed free of charge.