HC Deb 11 June 1968 vol 766 cc10-1
8. Dr. John Dunwoody

asked the Minister of Health by what means the patient will be able to appeal against a refusal to grant exemption from prescription charges.

Mr. K. Robinson

There is no formal right of appeal; but any representations made to my Department or to that of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Social Security against a refusal to issue an exemption certificate will be carefully considered.

Dr. Dunwoody

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that many people have had great difficulty in reading, and more so in understanding, the advertisements about exemptions, and that the absence of a more formal means of appeal will leave many patients with a sense of grievance in the months ahead?

Mr. Robinson

I hope not. I think my hon. Friend will recognise that executive councils are not exercising any discretion. They are dealing with medically supported facts in issuing exemption certificates. I do not think that this is an appropriate situation for any formal right of appeal, but I am prepared to investigate any representations which might be made to me.

Mr. Dean

Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that he will put his officers in a difficult position? As interested parties, they are going to be judge and jury in the cases concerned, are they not?

Mr. Robinson

No, Sir. I do not think that that is the case. I think it more likely that there might be representations on grounds of financial hardship, which is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Minister of Social Security, who is well accustomed to this sort of problem.

Mr. Pavitt

Will my right hon. Friend take a special look at the problem of appeals in relation to the hospital service? Only yesterday there was considerable confusion, and there is a need for further advice, especially to newly employed people, to cope with this problem.

Mr. Robinson

If my hon. Friend gives me any evidence, I shall certainly consider whether further advice to hospital authorities is necessary.

Sir C. Osborne

In view of the grievance which the reimposition of prescription charges will cause, can the right hon. Gentleman say how much money will be saved by their reimposition? Could not cuts have been made in other Government expenditure in place of these?

Mr. Robinson

I do not recall the hon. Gentleman being present in the House when we debated the matter just before the House rose for the Whitsun Recess. It was dealt with at some length then. The saving will be about £25 million a year.