HC Deb 29 March 1965 vol 709 cc1179-81
32. Dr. Summerskill

asked the Minister of Health what evidence he has received of an increase or decrease in demand for prescriptions since 1st February, 1965.

31. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Minister of Health what evidence he has received on the increased demand for prescriptions following the abolition of prescription charges.

73. Mr. Park

asked the Minister of Health if he will publish statistics of the changes in demand for prescriptions following the abolition of prescription charges.

Mr. K. Robinson

It will be some time before it is possible to assess the effect of abolishing prescription charges; preliminary information suggests that the number of prescriptions dispensed in February of this year, compared with the same month in the last six years, was probably higher than in four of those years and lower than in the other two.

Dr. Summerskill

Would my right hon. Friend not agree that, in view of that reply, it can be shown that in the winter months there usually is an increased demand for prescriptions depending on the severity of the winter and that the assumption on the part of hon. Members opposite that there would be an increase in demand even before the charge was taken off was quite unjustified?

Mr. Robinson

I would certainly agree that there is nothing whatever in the provisional figures which have reached me so far to suggest that there have been any of the abuses by patients so confidently forecast from the benches opposite.

Mr. Wood

Does not the information given by the right hon. Gentleman prove conclusively that talk during the election that thousands of people were being kept away by what was called a "tax on the sick" was absolute rubbish?

Mr. Robinson

As far as I know, nobody talked, and certainly I never talked, about thousands and thousands of people being kept away, but to the extent that people who were kept away have now been able to get prescriptions I am sure that all of us on both sides of the House will be pleased. In any event, we expected some increase. There is an indication of some increase, but there is no indication of any large increase or abuse.

Mr. Hugh D. Brown

There may have been some slight increase, but would my right hon. Friend agree when all the information is to hand to provide some evidence on those cases and to analyse any increase which has taken place in respect of type of patient and even type of doctor responsible for giving the prescriptions?

Mr. Robinson

I will gladly give such information as I can to the House, but I doubt whether it would be possible to break down the figures in quite the way that my hon. Friend would like.

Dr. Wyndham Davies

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in yesterday"s Sunday Express a general practitioner in Chatham said that he gave out 255 prescriptions instead of the normal 60 on the first day of the removal of the charge and that he and many other doctors reckon that they are now being blackmailed by their patients?

Hon. Members


Mr. Robinson

I saw the report in the Sunday Express and I gave it the attention which I thought it deserved.

Mr. Pavitt

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the pattern of prescription charges, the economic difficulties of the Government and the pressure by general practitioners on pay are all leading to a situation where a school of thought is growing in favour of having a two-way system of not only free National Health Service at the time of the service but also for some form of payment? In the negotiations with the general practitioners, will my right hon. Friend resist any attempt to dilute the idea of a free at-the-time service to sick people?

Mr. Robinson

I am glad to inform my hon. Friend that there is no indication that this is what the doctors wish to discuss in their charter for general practice.

Mr. Frederic Harris

Will the right hon. Gentleman accept from me that Croydon doctors have found that the number of prescriptions have gone up by an average of 20 per cent. since the charge was taken off? Will he look into this?

Mr. Robinson

Certainly, I will, but Croydon, as in some other matters, must be atypical, because there is no indication of anything like a 20 percent. increase.

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