HC Deb 28 January 1963 vol 670 cc565-6
18. Mr. Bence

asked the Minister of Health what would be the annual cost of abolishing all charges on prescriptions.

Mr. Braine

No reliable estimate can be made.

Mr. Bence

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that in rural areas such as my constituency and in Dunbartonshire many retired people, and indeed workers, still have to find 4s., 6s., or 7s., for medicines and very often 3s. for bus fares in order to go to places where the medicines are dispensed? Would not he consider abolishing the charge on medicines altogether?

Mr. Braine

I note what the hon. Member has said, but we have no evidence that the charge has prevented patients getting necessary medicines. It is easy to spend money in different directions, but I think the House should know that the cost in this case would substantially exceed the present revenue of £23½ million. As I have said, we should develop the health and welfare services and let them take priority.

Mr. K. Robinson

The hon. Gentleman said that he had noted all the recommendations of the Porritt Committee, but has he seen the appendix, which gives the results of a public opinion survey instituted at the request of the Porritt Committee, showing quite clearly that 9 per cent. of the people questioned said that they had been deterred from going to doctors solely because of prescription charges? Does that not bear out precisely what was said from these benches at the time when the charge was doubled?

Mr. Braine

I should have thought that public opinion would be extremely hostile to the idea that resources should be diverted from the essential task of improving the care and treatment of patients.

Mr. Burden

Is it not a fact that there are facilities whereby if people cannot afford prescription charges they can obtain repayments? Does not this take care of the complaint the hon. Member makes?

Mr. Braine

The answer is, yes.