HC Deb 20 October 1969 vol 788 cc748-9
17. Mr. Hugh Jenkins

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services to what extent the introduction of prescription charges has brought about a decline in the number of prescriptions combined with an increase in the cost; and what is his estimate of the administrative cost of the reintroduction to date.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Department of Health and Social Security (Dr. John Dunwoody)

From 1st July, 1968, to 31st May, 1969, the number of prescriptions dispensed by chemists in England was 9 per cent. less than in the corresponding period 12 months earlier. During the same period, total cost increased by about ½ per cent. compared with increases of 9 per cent. and 5 per cent. in the corresponding periods in 1966 and 1967. Introductory administrative costs for the 12 months ended 30th June, 1969, are estimated at about £610,000 and a further £790,000 was spent on extra payments to chemists.

Mr. Jenkins

Does not everything that my hon. Friend has said illustrate that the scheme has been a total failure and should be dropped, not merely from the point of view that it is totally undesirable as far as the electorate is concerned, as my hon. Friend himself in a previous incarnation pointed out before his conversion and appearance on the Front Bench, on which I congratulate him? Incidentally, will my hon. Friend also reply to the question in the sense that it was regarded at one time as of sufficient importance to bring about the resignation of members of the Government?

Dr. Dunwoody

When considering the figures which I have given for the administration and reintroduction of the scheme, one has to bear in mind the amount of money which has been raised. The total saving is of the order of £25 million, of which £16 million or £17 million represents actual income from the charges.

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