HC Deb 29 June 1979 vol 969 cc362-3W
Mr. Field

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what is the estimated take-up of free milk, free prescriptions, remission of optical and dental charges and payment of fares to hospital; and what steps he is taking to bring these benefits to the attention of those eligible for them.

Dr. Vaughan

Take-up of free welfare milk tokens in Great Britain at December 1976, which is the latest date at which estimated numbers of those eligible are available, is given in the following table:

low income grounds is about 2 per cent. in England.

Every prescription form handed to a patient by a doctor contains information on all the categories of exemption: in addition information leaflets [FP91 and M11] are available at Post Offices, family practitioner committees and local offices of my Department. The publicity for the July increase in prescription charges will highlight the range of exemptions.

Information about optical charges cannot be supplied in the form requested since no estimate of the number of persons eligible for help on low income grounds is available. However, in 1978, out of 4.03 million prescriptions dispensed in England under the general ophthalmic services, 748,652 (19 per cent.) exemptions, remissions or refunds were granted to patients seeking help with charges.

Information leaflets [NHS 6 and M11] containing details of the help which is available towards NHS optical charges are available to members of the public at main Post Offices, family practitioner committees and community health councils. In addition, the reverse of every official receipt issued for NHS optical charges sets out details of how and where to claim help with them.

In 1978, 616,000 courses of treatment under the general dental services were provided free of charge for patients in England with low income and a further 10,000 courses provided for patients who received some help with the charge.

In addition, 764,000 courses of treatment were provided without charge to expectant mothers and women who had had a baby in the previous 12 months as well as 11,750,000 courses provided free to children.

Leaflets NHS 4 and M11 which are widely available in dentists' surgeries, Post Offices, local DHSS offices, family practitioner committee offices and community health councils inform patients of the right to free treatment and tell them how to claim.

Information on the take-up rate for payment of fares to hospital is not available.

Health authorities have been asked to display notices and leaflets in hospitals informing patients about the hospital fares scheme and how they can claim. Information about help with hospital fares is also available from local social security offices.