HC Deb 22 June 1971 vol 819 cc1175-6
8. Mr. Deakins

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will now make a statement about revised charges for prescriptions.

10. Mr. Hunt

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he has yet decided the price to be charged for the prepayment certificates which will continue to be available under the new scheme for graduated National Health Service charges.

11. Mr. Pavitt

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he has now completed his discussions with the British Medical Association and the Pharmaceutical Society regarding cost-related prescription charges; and if he will now announce his decision.

Sir K. Joseph

I am still considering these matters in the light of the views which were expressed to me by the representatives of the medical, dental and pharmaceutical professions during my recent discussions with them.

Mr. Deakins

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many people in constituencies like mine are apprehensive about his plans and that the sooner this appre hension is dispelled the better? Is he aware that they are particularly worried if they are old-age pensioners, people living on fixed incomes, large families, low-paid workers and so on? Surely he has a duly to complete these discussions as soon as possible so that people may at least know the worst that is in store for them?

Sir K. Joseph

I shall try to arrive at a decision as quickly as possible but I want to pay full heed to the representations made to me.

Mr. Hunt

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that the majority of the prepayment certificates are used by those who are permanently sick and that any increase in the present charge will be regarded as a regrettable departure from the Government's sensible policy of concentrating help where it is most needed?

Sir K. Joseph

I am glad to say that the use of prepayment certificates has leapt in recent weeks.

Mr. Pavitt

Will the right hon. Gentleman pay special attention to the medical evidence and clinical considerations? Is he aware that in a test 30 placebos of coloured water were just as effective as medicine but that once any question of a charge for a prescription was raised the patients' acceptance of the doctor's infallibility about prescribing charges and treatment becomes suspect? Is he aware that there are strong clinical grounds why this graded scheme should not be introduced?

Sir K. Joseph

I will study the hon. Gentleman's argument, which is not one that has been put to me by the profession.

Mrs. Shirley Williams

Will the right hon. Gentleman now tell the House that the British Medical Association regards the suggestion of cost-related prescription charges as in conflict with clinical freedom and that the Pharmaceutical Society regards it as an administrative nightmare? Will he send this monstrosity back to the Treasury which so unwisely begat it?

Sir K. Joseph

The hon. Lady will recall that I said I would have a rational dialogue with the professions. They did not go in for the kind of shorthand in which she has indulged.

Forward to