HC Deb 23 February 1993 vol 219 cc752-3
4. Mr. Miller

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans she has to exempt youth training scheme trainees from prescription charges.

The Minister for Health (Dr. Brian Mawhinney)

Help with national health charges, including those for prescriptions, is already available under the NHS low income scheme and is directed towards people, including youth training scheme trainees, who may have the greatest difficulty in paying. The scheme ensures that no one need be deterred from obtaining necessary medication on financial grounds.

Mr. Miller

Does the Minister agree that it is outrageous that my constituent, Catherine Ormerod, who suffers from a life-threatening illness, should have to choose which medicines she takes? Does he further agree that, but for the good will of pensioners, shop stewards and friends, she would still not be able to afford the season ticket? Is it not about time we saw the same good will from the Department of Health as we see from the people of Ellesmere Port and Neston who have helped my constituent?

Dr. Mawhinney

The hon. Gentleman had a full explanation of these matters in a letter from me dated 15 December—

Mr. Miller

Four lines.

Dr. Mawhinney

It was not four lines, as the hon. Gentleman well knows.

He also had a letter from the Under-Secretary of State, my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, West (Mr. Sackville). In both those letters it was explained to him —but I shall explain it again—that YTS trainees have an income, which may well be supplemented by employers, in which case, like everyone else of relatively low income, they are considered under the NHS low income scheme. I have to tell the hon. Gentleman, although he clearly does not want to accept it, that in this case age is not a relevant factor.

Dame Jill Knight

Will my hon. Friend confirm that even those patients who have no exemption at all from the prescription charge, which I understand is in excess of £4, are paying considerably less than the true cost of the prescription, which I understand is about £9?

Dr. Mawhinney

My hon. Friend is right to point out that the prescription charge is much less than the average cost of the prescription to the NHS.

Mr. Chisholm

Will the Minister take this opportunity to deny the recent report that pregnant women and women with children under one year old will no longer receive free prescriptions? Is it not enough for the Government to have raised prescription charges by 2,000 per cent. without imposing that burden on 1 million extra women?

Dr. Mawhinney

The hon. Gentleman and his question would be taken slightly more seriously by the House if his question had some vague rigour. He knows perfectly well that there was no recommendation or report in the terms that he has described. He is referring to the Bloomfield report, which looked at the system of remuneration for dentists. That report is out for consultation and we shall bring forward proposals in due course.