HC Deb 26 October 1976 vol 918 cc262-3
8. Mr. Ridley

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what was the cost of the Prescription Pricing Authority in 1975–76; and what is the estimate for the current year.

Mr. Moyle

Nearly £4.4 million and about £5.5 million respectively.

Mr. Ridley

In view of the escalating costs, will the Minister try a little experiment and ask the private sector for a tender for doing this work? It is likely that he could save about half the cost of it if he got it done efficiently by the private sector.

Mr. Moyle

I am confident that the job is being done efficiently. The increased costs are due to £860,000 which took account of negotiated staff salaries and a further £240,000 to bring the staff up to the level it was at under the predecessor, the Joint Pricing Committee. The increase has had to take care of the steady secular trend in the rise of prescriptions in this country which is common to all advanced industrial countries.

Mr. Pavitt

Will my hon. Friend look at the increasing costs of the pricing of prescriptions and realise that nearly 55 per cent, of them are free? A great deal of machinery is used for collecting prescription charges, and therefore, this is more expensive than is necessary. Will my hon. Friend consider phasing out the present prescription charges when the economic situation allows?

Mr. Moyle

I will look into that suggestion, but the Prescription Pricing Authority does not concern itself with the collection of prescription charges.

Sir George Young

In view of the enormous financial problems facing the National Health Service at the present time, may I ask whether it is still the Government's policy to add to these by phasing out income from prescription charges?

Mr. Moyle