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Prescriptions: Fees and Charges

Volume 489: debated on Tuesday 17 March 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what mechanisms are (a) in place and (b) planned to assist people on low incomes with prescription charges. (263632)

The current mechanisms in place for entitlement to free prescriptions on the basis of a low income are as follows.

(1) People receiving the following:

income support,

income based jobseeker's allowance,

income related employment and support allowance, or

pension credit guarantee credit (in respect of a partner under 60 as the recipient would be exempt on age grounds); or

(2) A member of a family that is receiving:

working tax credit with child tax credit,

working tax credit that includes a disability or severe disability element, or

child tax credit but is not eligible for working tax credit, and

the annual income of the family for tax credit purposes is £15,050 or less (or £15,276 from 6 April 2009);

(3) An asylum seeker for whom support is provided under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999;

(4) A person who lives permanently in a care home whose fees are paid in whole or part by a local authority;

(5) A young person supported by a local authority as he/she has just left care; and

(6) Anyone not in any of the above groups may make a National Health Service Low Income scheme claim for their entitlement to free prescriptions to be calculated by the National Health Service Business Services Authority.

Prescription prepayment certificates (PPCs) for three months or 12 months are available for anyone who is not otherwise entitled to free prescriptions. PPCs offer savings to anyone who needs four or more prescription items in three months or 14 or more items in 12 months. 12-month PPCs may be paid for by 10 direct debit instalments.

We recognise we need a fairer system of prescription charging. That is why the Prime Minister announced in September last year that exemption from prescription charges would be extended to cancer patients and to patients with other long-term conditions. In this way, we will alleviate the financial burden for those suffering from ill health.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what recent discussions he has had with (a) Welsh Assembly Government Ministers, (b) Scottish Executive Ministers and (c) Northern Ireland Executive Ministers on levels of prescription charges. (263674)

We have had no such discussions. Prescription charging is a devolved matter and decisions in this area are for each devolved Administration to determine.