HC Deb 28 October 1983 vol 47 cc232-3W
Mr. Carter-Jones

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services (1) if he is satisfied that the new discount and surcharge scale operating on pharmacists will not have an adverse effect on the number of shops kept open for dispensing purposes; if he will indicate the net gain to the Exchequer from the new scheme; and if he will make a statement;

(2) if he will take steps to compensate dispensing chemists who go into liquidation as a result of the implementation of his discount clawback scheme in view of the fact that certain areas in the country may otherwise suffer loss of service; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke

We have recently completed an inquiry, following procedures agreed between the Government and the profession, into discounts on pharmacists' drug purchases which showed that discount scales applied to reimbursement for NHS prescription drugs from October 1980 to July 1983 were too low. Pharmacists had therefore been significantly over-reimbursed above the levels agreed with their negotiators. As a result, we have introduced a new discount scale to reflect current discount levels and a surcharge to recover the overpayment. There can be no question, therefore, of compensation being considered; and there has been no net gain to the Exchequer over and above the agreed level of reimbursement.

I do not expect that the need to recover over-reimbursement will alone result in bankruptcies—I have had no such reports so far—nor do I believe that the action that has had to be taken will affect the adequacy of dispensing arrangements in the United Kingdom.