HC Deb 25 October 1949 vol 468 cc1139-41
27 and 28. Lieut.-Commander Clark Hutchison

asked the Secretary of Slate for Scotland (1) whether he is aware that many chemists in Edinburgh are being faced with serious financial difficulties owing to the long delay in the settlement of their accounts for services rendered under the National Health Service (Scotland) Act, 1947; and what steps he is taking to expedite settlement of these outstanding claims;

(2) what administrative measures he proposes to take to ensure that in the coming year accounts rendered by chemists in Scotland for services given under the National Health Service (Scotland) Act, 1947, will receive prompt payment.

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Woodburn)

Substantial monthly payments to account have been made to all chemists, at rates which have recently been increased with retrospective effect. An abbreviated system of pricing, designed to produce a quicker final settlement, is now being put into operation; and its continuance is being discussed with representatives of the Scottish chemists.

Lieut.-Colonel Hutchison

Is the Secretary of State aware that much of the delay takes place in the price checking bureau in Glasgow, and will he look into that point? Will he also make an additional interim payment as an emergency measure in those cases where there are long-standing claims to be settled?

Mr. Woodburn

Under the new scheme there has been a very large number of prescriptions compared with what had been anticipated. To deal with them under the old system would have required a very big increase of staff, and we are reluctant to add to the staff. What we have done is to negotiate with the chemists to have a new agreement, as a simplified final arrangement, which will enable us to meet practically 90 per cent. of the claims of the chemists within one week of the claims being sent in.

Mr. Maclay

Is the Secretary or State aware that a week or two ago there were many claims all over Scotland from chemists who had received no payment for four, five or six months, and that in the effort to clear some of the back claims proposals were made which, if accepted, would mean that chemists were asked to take much less then they expected when the scheme first started?

Mr. Woodburn

Not at all. That is not the case. In any case, I do not think that the chemists can complain of their remuneration.

Mr. Thornton-Kemsley

Can the Minister say what he intends to do about back claims and how soon he intends to clear off these arrears?

Mr. Woodburn

Substantial payments have been made, and we are dealing with the claims as quickly as possible. We are certainly not going to increase the staff to clear up the back claims, but we will do our best in all the circumstances.

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