HC Deb 11 May 1970 vol 801 cc798-9
6. Mr. Hooky

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what is his most up-to-date calculation of the net yield of prescription charges in the financial year 1970–71; and how many officers in the country as a whole will be engaged in administering exemptions.

Dr. John Dunwoody

For Great Britain, rather over f17 million after allowing for administrative and other costs. The administration of exemptions is often done by staff employed on other duties but it is estimated that the work takes the equivalent of rather less than 400 whole-time staff.

Mr. Hooley

I recognise the considerable efforts which the Government have made to mitigate the effect of this tax on a wide section of the community, but is it not time to look at this again, particularly in view of the fact that many chronic sick have not gained exemption and that we are wasting these 400 officers, who could be much more usefully employed?

Dr. Dunwoody

It is true that there are many patients who receive exemption—over 40 per cent. of the population—and half of all prescriptions are exempt. I am pursuing in my Department the possibility of giving further publicity to various methods of either obtaining exemption or reducing the charge by means of a prepayment certificate. There is no reason why anyone should have to pay more than 1s. 3d. a week, even if he requires continuous and heavy medication.